Maze Row Wine Merchant VOICES #5

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VOICES Edition 5 / The “rethink” issue asks why and how we should challenge and reconsider some conventions in food and wine, luxury hospitality and art.

IN WINE, WE FIND LIFE In wine we seek truth, craft and the passion of discovery. In life, we seek to build a community connected by a love for wine and wine culture. We are Maze Row Wine Merchant. We inspire a culture of fine wine discovery, a life that talks of people and their sense of place, of truth, craft and endeavor. An enriching journey, encompassing heritage, terroir, culture and philosophy. Through our curation of wines, stories and immersive experiences, we share the best of life with the adventurers, the bon vivants, the passionate connoisseurs.

Winemakers Telmo Rodríguez and Pablo Eguzkiza in the Bodega Lanzaga vineyards, Rioja, Spain

Welcome to VOICES, the publication by Maze Row. Fall is the season of possibilities. Time to start afresh, and make the most of our annual dose of back-to-school optimism. So, we approached this edition through the lens of “rethink.” We asked a collective of wine, food, hospitality, luxury and arts specialists to see if, how and why we can and, in some cases, should rethink what’s come before. In wine, rethink could be about questioning the validity of labels such as Super Tuscans, or reimagining the possibilities of Rioja with a pioneering group of winemakers led by the likes of Telmo Rodríguez of Bodega Lanzaga. Rethink is about intelligently reimagining wine waste from production to the afterlife. Equally, it is about positively utilizing technologies such as AI to benefit the winegrower and maker. In hospitality, rethink is about reshaping fine dining as we tap into a collective of chefs on these pages who are leading the conversation to great heights. It’s also about questioning the tired concept of luxury – reimagining its possibilities for the now and future generations, as experts Peter Yeung and Pauline Vicard discuss here. In the arts, rethink is about inclusivity; it is about setting culture free to be explored by many, not just a few. In this edition we look at how some gallerists are releasing exhibitions from the confines of the traditional white-cube space – spaces not always welcome to everyone – to be more inclusive, and to be experienced in new and exciting ways. And since rethink is critical when it comes to bringing more diversity to food and wine, I’m delighted to share the thoughts of two who have been at the forefront for change: Stephen Satterfield, who, as the host of Netflix’s High on the Hog, uses the narrative of food to tell a more expansive American story, and Alicia Towns Franken, whose non-profit Wine Unify educationally and emotionally supports other voices in wine. In these pages, you will find many voices with a wealth of ideas that will hopefully spark us all to rethink the so-called norm. Some of the most thrilling periods are the ones with the greatest change, times when the collective rethinks the possibilities. We invite you to join us, and help us broaden our horizons and see the world of wine in new ways. Get in touch. Share your view. Our guiding philosophy is: In wine, we find life. VOICES editorial director,

Nargess Banks


WELCOME In the fifth edition of VOICES by Maze Row, we continue our mission to view and explore the world of wine through different lenses.


MEET THE COLLECTIVE We are a group of winemakers, sommeliers, educators, writers, connoisseurs and food and wine lovers with a shared passion for life.



REBEL WITH A CAUSE Winemaker extraordinaire Telmo Rodríguez has helped redefine Rioja with his unique terroirfocused “village wines.”


RIOJA REBORN A band of forward-thinking winemakers is breathing new life into the Spanish wine industry, with grand plans to celebrate local terroir and excellency.


SUPER LEAGUE Is it time to drop the name “Super Tuscan” and focus on quality? We explore the new landscape of Italy’s most famous and prolific wine region.


COASTAL DREAMS Along Tuscany’s southern coast in Bolgheri, Poggio al Tesoro makes wines that are fresh and elegant and deeply connected to the local area.


CREAM OF THE CROP With the release of the 2017 La Poja, Allegrini CEO Marilisa Allegrini discusses the estate’s focus on cru and vineyard-designed wines.




ORIGIN STORY With High on the Hog, Stephen Satterfield looks at US history through the lens of Black food to weave richly layered critical narratives.


A NEW CHAPTER Pauline Vicard is helping reshape the future of fine wine with her think tank ARENI Global. She shares her views on the ever-evolving story of luxury hospitality.


THE FINER THINGS The concept of luxury is constantly shifting, explains Peter Yeung, as shown by the wealth of new high-end experiences in the world of hospitality and wine.


NEW PERSPECTIVES Alicia Towns Franken, executive director of nonprofit organization Wine Unify, discusses race and diversity – or lack of – in the wine business.


AT THE BAR Chicago’s Maple & Ash is redefining the traditional steakhouse by offering not only prime steaks but also an extensive, carefully put together wine list.


RECIPES FOR SUCCESS How the US fine dining scene is adapting to new tastes, and the essential ingredients needed to cook up unforgettable dining experiences from San Francisco to New Orleans.




WHERE THE ART IS Do unusual venues and experimental curations set culture free to be explored in new and exciting ways, and by a wider public?


IT’S AI TIME From precision viticulture to optimized communications, artificial intelligence is set to revolutionize the winemaking world.


WASTE NOT A group of winemakers are rethinking the concept of waste, from reimagining old defunct wooden casks as stylish furniture to reusing grape residue to make grappa.


SAVE THE DATES From classic to unusual, we handpick six events across the US, from Georgia to California, for a glimpse into America’s wine culture.


LA RIOJA WINE TRAILS Few tourists visit the Spanish wine region, yet it makes for a unique holiday location. We follow the Ebro Valley to find peace among the vineyards and wineries of historic La Rioja.


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Marilisa Allegrini The CEO of Valpolicella winery Allegrini and Poggio al Tesoro in Bolgheri has been pushing a case for a focus on cru and vineyard-designed wines, as she explains on p58 and p66.

Telmo Rodríguez As one of the leading figures in Rioja’s terroir-driven movement, through his work at Bodega Lanzaga he is restoring the grand culture, rituals and beauty of Spanish wine growing (p12).

Pablo Eguzkiza Telmo Rodríguez’s partner at Bodega Lanzaga, the winemaker is a key player in the movement returning the focus to terroir in Rioja, as we discover on p20.

Richard Hough On p78, the writer and editor for the Italian Wine Podcast and Mamma Jumbo Shrimp looks at how artificial intelligence is set to revolutionize the winemaking world.

Cynthia Chaplin The Italian Wine Ambassador, Professor of Italian Wine, and host on Italian Wine Podcast takes on Super Tuscans on p46, questioning if the term is still needed.

Brett Davis On p20, the master sommelier reports on a band of innovators breathing new life into the Spanish wine industry by celebrating local terroir and excellency.

Pauline Vicard Through her think tank ARENI Global, the wine expert is helping shape the future of fine wine and luxury hospitality, as she explains on p32.

Peter Yeung On p34, the co-author of Luxury Wine Marketing, wine industry executive and podcaster on the business of wine dissects the ever-evolving concept of luxury.


Stephen Satterfield The chef and sommelier’s Netflix series High on the Hog challenges standard historical narratives through the lens of Black food, as he examines on p30.

Jordan Mackay The award-winning writer speaks with Stephen Satterfield (p30) to find out how his experience as a sommelier informs his work exploring American history through Black food.

Alicia Towns Franken On p44, the exectutive director of nonprofit organization Wine Unify talks about championing and promoting diversity within the wine business.

Kyla Marshell Ebony named the writer one of “7 Young Black Writers You Should Know”. On p44 she speaks with Alicia Towns Franken to discuss diversity in wine.

Virginia Miller A seasoned food and drinks writer and regular columnist at The Bold Italic, Distiller and Gin Magazine, on p82 she taps into the new wave of chefs redefining the US fine dining scene.

Tom Hyland The wine writer visits Chicago’s Maple & Ash (p54) to see how it’s redefining the traditional steakhouse by offering not only prime steaks but also a carefully curated wine list.

Amy Mundwiler As Maple & Ash’s wine programmer (see p54) she’s put together an extensive, carefully considered wine list to help redefine the traditional Chicago steakhouse.

Jonathan Bell On p88, the architecture and design critic looks at how waste from grape growing and winemaking is being reimagined as furniture, fabric and spirits.


Chasity Cooper On p94, the award-winning wine writer rounds up the most classic, exciting, fine and esoteric wine events across the US.

Mike MacEacheran The Edinburgh-based travel writer takes us to Rioja on p96, following the Ebro Valley to find peace among the vineyards and wineries of historic Spain.

Helen Cathcart On p12 the photographer heads to Rioja to capture Bodega Lanzaga, and to Bolgheri on p58 to snap Marilisa Allegrini at her jewel winery Poggio Al Tesoro.

Robert Lawson Passionate about photographing all things drinks related for the last 20 years, he shoots the Maze Row collection of fine European wines throughout the publication.

Roberto Fortunato The photographer was seduced into a life in wine growing up in Piedmont. On p46 he helps capture the parcel that produced the special 2017 Allegrini la Poja.

Suzanne Denevan-Brown The Maze Row director and VOICES content strategist is a student of life and a disciple of the art of hospitality. Food and wine help her understand the world.

Emma Mrkonic A year studying for an international MBA in Veneto catapulted her into the world of wine and wine culture. As part of the Maze Row team, she helped bring VOICES to life.

Leigh Banks As VOICES content director, the Spinach co-director loves nothing more than help brands reveal their most unique and engaging stories and personalities.


Adam Thomas The creative director of VOICES is a co-director at Spinach where he leads an international team who believe in timeless yet timely design.

Simon Ward Artistic, quick thinking and insightful, the Spinach design director breathes creativity to the pages of VOICES.

Rebecca Holden The lead designer at Spinach is a meticulous and highly versatile creative who has helped bring VOICES to life.

JOIN THE VOICES COLLECTIVE Help us widen our lens. Contact us:

Nargess Banks The VOICES editorial director speaks with Telmo Rodríguez of Bodega Lanzaga (p12) and meets Marilisa Allegrini at her Bolgheri winery Poggio al Tesoro (p58).

Winemaker extraordinaire Telmo Rodríguez has helped redefine Rioja with his unique terroir-focused “village wines,” as Nargess Bank discovers


The Lanzaga winery and vineyards are located to the south of Bilbao in northern Spain. Previous page and right from top, Telmo Rodríguez with his dog, and with his business partner, the winemaker Pablo Eguzkiza

I love to be an outsider and go against the establishment,” says Telmo Rodríguez as we start wrapping up. The winemaker and co-owner of Bodega Lanzaga is quite the raconteur. We’ve been chatting for almost two hours, covering topics as wide and wild as 17th-century winemaking, mingling among Madrid’s artistic circles, working on the avant-garde Matador magazine, surfing, and Spain’s reawakening. “This is an amazing moment for Spain. The talent, ambition and revolution are there. They speak of Spain as a sleeping lion, and today the lion is awake. We are full of energy to make amazing wines.” Telmo is at the vanguard of a radical movement in Rioja steadfast in making wines that are an entirely original expression of place. Their mission is to reshape the definition of Rioja, liberating it from its commercial status. His flagship winery, Bodega Lanzaga, has a singular vision: to make village wines, meaning small-parcel, small-production, terroir-focused bottlings for wines with real individuality that authentically reflect the true essence of Rioja. To do so, Telmo and his business partner Pablo Eguzkiza – a disciple of Jean-Claude Berrouet of Pétrus – have looked back in time to imagine the future. They have studied winemaking in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the custom was to make wine village by village,


in small plots and according to the micro land and climate. Their approach has been to adopt the best of ancient methods and marry these with innovation. Lanzaga’s collection has been winning accolades (see “Rioja Reborn” p20), but it’s taken over 30 years of painstaking research of land, grapes and method to reach this place. “I like this idea of restoring, listening to a place, to a vineyard, a landscape. Every place is different, and every place will tell you something different, so we work with different grapes, and plant trees depending on the place. As a winemaker, I would never go to a place and try to tell it how it should taste,” he continues. “I prefer to ask the place: how should you taste? And all our wines, in the different sites, vineyards and villages, are different. Because we learn to be sensitive and respect the place. Our work is about asking, not imposing. I’m always surrounded with people more talented than me. The art is to listen. To have the ambition to be better,” he says, then adds after a pause. “When you learn to see and listen, you are less pretentious.” THE NON-CONFORMIST Telmo was raised within an artistic family, and his childhood was anything but ordinary. His entrepreneur father and artist mother had purchased the completely crumbling historical

14th-century Remelluri estate in Rioja on a whim, albeit a passion-driven one. They were new to the area and had no knowledge nor any intention of making wine. But the place spoke to them, and they instinctively knew winemaking was to be their calling. Telmo offers this explanation: “The beauty brought them to Remelluri, but then the place felt so connected to wine they decided to make wine. There was a certain energy to the place.” Telmo too listened to his heart when he quit biology to study oenology in Bordeaux. This followed years in France gaining hands-on experience at some of the most famed estates before settling in the Rhône Valley to work with growers. “I wasn’t interested in working at a famous winery. I wanted to work with real people.” The young Telmo returned to Spain intent on following his own mission. It was the early 1990s and wine had increasingly gone under the control of big corporations and cooperatives, leaving little or no room for the culture of small wineries. “Progress was seen as the future, for me the future was to work with the past.” In Spain Telmo discovered a country with incredible land that no one was visiting, and forgotten vineyards and grapes that no one appeared to be interested in. “I was a surfer. You know the dream of a surfer is to ride the wave that no one else has,” he muses.



Built in 2007 in the village of Lanciego, the Bodega Langaza winery was designed to be a modest building resembling an old cellar. The architects, Diego Garteiz and Paul Basañez, used age-old methodology and local earth to merge it with its surroundings

In 1994, under the banner of the Compañia de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez, Telmo and Pablo went on a journey to explore and restore neglected old vineyards all around Spain’s classical wine regions. They hired young local oenologists, made a simple wine with them in order to better understand the grapes, land and microclimates, then sourced exceptional vineyards to create top bottlings. Brimming with knowledge and with an even more profound respect for traditional styles of viticulture and winemaking, in 1998 the duo returned to Rioja and set the foundations for Lanzaga. Their ambition from the start was to make a wine “de pueblo,” a village wine modeled on centuries-old traditions, with many smaller properties that have only 15 to 20 hectares of vineyard each, teamed with 20th-century innovations. The concept was deeply radical. I ask about the roots of his fascination with the past. “The village of Lanciego in 1680, for example, had 330 growers and 260 cellars. In all our classic literature, Don Quixote and so on, when they talk about wine, they talk about villages. The culture was already there. And it’s so beautiful.” Telmo recalls a journalist asking him back then where is the next place to discover in Spain, and he, being the provocateur, replied: Rioja. “They couldn’t understand since

the area was already known so I said: no one knows the internal Rioja, the great Rioja, the beautiful Rioja, which is related to villages, to sites, to history.” Lanzaga settled in the village of Lanciego, in the subzone of Rioja Alavesa, an area also historically defined by individual grower-makers. They chose the area for its beauty, contrasting climate, the wild mix of Atlantic, Mediterranean, olive trees, and vineyards. “We started slowly. We never had much money but had a lot of talented people.” His mother often advised him that having less money has the benefit of allowing for more freedom to be explorative and take risks. Initially Lanzaga operated from what Telmo laughingly described as a very ugly place. All the funds went to purchasing perfectly situated beautiful vineyards and exploring winemaking using various grapes. “Our mission was to talk about making this village wine Rioja, not to impress with grand architecture, but I also knew we needed to build a nice space for our team.” And so, the Bodega Lanzaga winery was finally built in 2007 with the help of architects and old surfer friends Diego Garteiz and Paul Basañez. Telmo refrained from making a spectacular winery, insisting on a modest building to resemble an old cellar using age-old methodology, local earth, so that it would merge

with its surroundings. It wasn’t an easy task, but the winery was completed using earth, iron and the staves of old barrels. “My parents instilled in me the spirit of adventure. They found Remelluri, I was going to find some of the most beautiful vineyards of Spain,” reflects Telmo. “The journey took us 30 years. Our ambition was never to have the biggest winery and make a lot of money but produce the best wine in the world. It’s not a bad ambition, right,” he laughs, adding: “But we wanted to achieve that by doing something small, creating a new model.” LAY OF THE LAND The Bodega Lanzaga’s 30 hectares of vineyards in and around the villages of Lanciego and Labastida are farmed organically and the estate sources additional grapes from principled local farmers for its Corriente bottling. The Lanzaga vineyards are 500 to 700 meters above sea level, with a mix of old and new vines which are all head-trained, made up of primarily Tempranillo, Graciano, and Garnacha, though Telmo estimates there may be eight or more native varieties interplanted around his estate. The soils here are clay/calcareous, commonly associated with Rioja Alavesa, with outcroppings of sandstone and marl. In the cellar, all the wines are fermented spontaneously, 17

and the estate employs a mix of concrete tank, 1,200-liter foudres, and barriques for fermentation and aging. Lanzaga only makes wines from specific single plots. Radically, the estate rejects Rioja’s more common system of labeling wines according to their aging – Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva. Instead, the bottlings follow a more Burgundy-style, terroir-based model with three “village” wines and four “cru” wines. Telmo is convinced the Rioja labeling system, which favors larger producers, is outdated. “The model means 400 million bottles called Rioja,” he remarks while shaking his head furiously. He compares it to Shiraz from Australia, or Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which are easy-to-read, generic models that may sell bottles, but instead of allowing the best wines to express a country, encourage the worst to do so. “Rioja became an empty brand; too generic.” He says it’s a little like calling Spain a country of only sun, sandy beaches and paella, while omitting Velázquez, Goya, Picasso, Buñuel, Dalí... “A Rioja that became a lover without substance is a dead Rioja.” Lanzaga makes three wines: Lanzaga, LZ and Corriente – all pristine, powerful, age-worthy, and expressive wines that speak of where they come from and are therefore full of character and nuances. Lanzaga is the flagship bottling, 18

a field blend from estate vineyards – top selections from 35 different plots of organic vineyards with various soil compositions – and, according to Telmo, “the backbone of our project, the identity, the purest expression of our work in Lanciego.” NEW TASTES The modern wine consumer, I suggest, tends to be more adventurous, certainly more curious in knowing the story, which is all in his favor. He nods rapidly in agreement. He is aware that fine wine is a small segment in the pyramid that makes up wine. Spain, he notes, is lucky in that it has an abundance of beautiful vineyards and so he is able to make great quality fine wine at an agreeable price. I probe about the future, curious to know if Telmo and Pablo are planning new wines. “We’re a little bit at the end of our working life,” he says pragmatically, noting how proud he is of his son joining the family business. “We remain ambitious to improve what we do with Lanzaga and the village wines.” I ask how his non-conformist parents view his achievements. “My father was proud outside, and jealous inside,” he says in a gently jokey tone. “My mother told me recently: I knew there was a jewel in this land, and now I see you are showing this jewel.” His radicalism, I suggest, feels very much in

the spirit of Spanish artists and writers past and present. He agrees. “To be Spanish hasn’t been easy in the last few centuries; the country was in constant wars. Spain has had great artists because it was never a bourgeois country in that everyone was fighting – the artist, the painter, the poet.” Telmo has a dinner to attend with more wine folks. Before we depart, I want to know if his dreams have indeed come true. “I am happy. We have always gone against the current, against the flow, took risks, and have had lots of fun. Many people in our company have stayed with us through the journey, and each year we welcome young people who we teach and learn from,” he says, taking a moment before adding, “I think our project is a success.” We conclude on the surfing metaphor, naturally. “We’ve had good and bad moments, but we were always surfing the moment, and we have been lucky. When a wave was finishing suddenly another would appear, and we had the intuition to jump on it, always searching for the right wave.” Winemakers Telmo Rodríguez and Pablo Eguzkiza founded Lanzaga with a clear vision: to make village wines, meaning small-parcel, small-production, terroir-focused bottlings Photography ©Helen Cathcart

A band of forward-thinking winemakers is breathing new life into the Spanish wine industry, with grand plans to celebrate local terroir and excellency, as Brett Davis investigates



ike most fine dining sommeliers in the US, I always had go-to bottles on my wine list to help transition the typical California wine drinker to wines from the Old World – European wines that would better pair with the style of food on the restaurant’s menu. And since I was based in Louisville, Kentucky, I often had a much more difficult task, in that I needed to convert Bourbon drinkers (even if just for the one evening) to a wine that would enhance their dining experience. A Rioja Reserva or Gran Reserva inevitably became my huckleberry since they would offer the familiar aromas of vanilla, dill, coconut and sweet dried fruit that only extended American oak aging can provide. As Bourbon is to American whiskey, Rioja is to Spanish wine when it comes to its fame, and the countless origin stories. Every producer, distributor and writer seems to have their own twist and tale. To add to the complexity, a large percentage of the internationally distributed Rioja brands, and the gallons behind them, are produced by a small number of large industrial wineries. What’s more, it is a rare individual who can tell the difference between the various brands in a blind tasting since the general flavor profiles, though delicious, are definitive in their uniformity. Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. The consumer confidence in this consistency


has contributed to Rioja’s great success. But nothing lasts forever; tastes change and trends evolve. Today’s wine professionals are increasingly seeking out and pushing forward producers and production methods that demonstrate geographical terroir as opposed to products dominated by the characteristics of the barrels or cellars they are aged in. And, since the 1970s, Rioja wines have been defined by the time they age in wood, and with no quality classification being designated to vineyards or villages from which the grapes are grown. While Bourbon is safe for the foreseeable future, Rioja is years into crisis mode with declining reputation, demand and value across the board, and is now generally thought of as a grocery store product. With but just a few exceptions, this has made it difficult for artisan Rioja producers to find success in the top restaurants and wine shops (even in Spain). It has driven the value of Rioja grapes so low that it’s becoming unsustainable for the growers that supply the larger wineries. Predictably, steep hillside and hard-to-reach higher elevation vineyards have often been abandoned in favor of vineyards located in the flatter areas that are easier to maintain and harvest. Driving through Rioja recently, I was stunned to see hundreds of abandoned terraced vineyards hillside after hillside.

ENTER THE MATADOR In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a small group of Spanish wineries started to emerge producing wines with flavor profiles and winemaking sensibilities more akin to the greatest wines of France than their regional peers. The producers made single vineyard expressions and revived forgotten indigenous varietals. In the winery, some used French oak in lieu of the traditional American oak, while others chose to impart very little oak influence at all. Their distinctiveness and quality standards made them all outliers within their own appellations. Even though the demand and prices rose for many of these producers, their true potential marketplace value remained limited due to the global reputation of the wines from both Spain and their individual DOs. ​​One of the most respected voices of this Spanish terroir-driven movement is Rioja producer Telmo Rodríguez. His family’s Remelluri estate started producing a single vineyard Rioja wine in the early 1970s. Today, Rodríguez’s mission, along with his winemaker partner Pablo Eguzkiza, is to locate and revive abandoned vineyards with “grand cru” potential throughout Spain. In Rioja, Bodega Lanzaga is the avenue for this mission. The estate has two separate winemaking facilities with distinct purposes.

Winemakers Telmo Rodríguez and Pablo Eguzkiza at their Lanzaga vineyards, located to the south of Bilbao in northern Spain

Lanzaga’s main modern facility is focused on the village expression wines, whereas the small hundred-year-old cellar, hidden in Haro, is used for the old vine single cru bottlings. Rodríguez and Eguzkiza have also revived grand cru-worthy sites inside the Valdeorras DO in Galicia and in the Sierra de Gredos DO in Castilla y León, and they are helping to reawaken these almost forgotten appellations. I first met Rodríguez while hosting a group of Miami-based sommeliers to taste and discuss the wines of Lanzaga. Everyone at the table agreed that the fresh fruit profile and living earth terroir of his wines were a welcome reprieve from the usual Rioja profile most consumers are accustomed to. Somms being somms, without fail at least one person asked about the precise varietal breakdown for every wine we tasted, and each time Rodríguez graciously deflected the dialogue away from specific grapes to what the sum of each site provides on a particular vintage. He made it very clear that we should not lose sight of the vineyard in favor of the vines. In 2016 at the Club Matador in Madrid, Rodríguez hosted a large group of wine professionals for a round table discussion about the future of the Spanish wine industry. Participants included other quality-driven winemakers as well as journalists, critics and tradespeople.

This gathering led to a manifesto that gained the signatures of over 200 highly respected Spanish wine producers. This “Matador Manifesto” became an ultimatum-free plea to the Regulatory Boards of Spanish wine regions to consider a pyramid quality classification system for vineyards within their regions, similar to what is found in the highest regarded appellations in Europe. The last paragraph of the manifesto pretty much sums it up: “Therefore, we call upon the Regulatory Boards to be sensitive to the new wine reality that is emerging all over Spain and to approach a classification of the land in terms of quality. We are certain that establishing such distinctions is the first step towards excellence. Beyond emerging as an unstoppable trend, terroir wines are the best way to improve the quality of Spanish wines and achieve international recognition.” LEADING THE WAY The movement is a cultural change still in its infancy, and it will take time and patience to mature. It took almost 50 years for Barolo to make its single cru system official after the first vineyard designated bottlings in the early 1960s, just as it did for Germany to finalize their Grosse Gewach and Grosse Lage system. Spain is no different. Yet it seems to be evolving rapidly

with Priorat’s quality system in place for Catalan wines, and Rioja allowing certain vineyards and villages to be noted on labels. The leaders of this change have wisely chosen a non-combative path by working with their regulatory boards and effecting change from within. They are showing the best paths of change by example and proof of concept as demand continually increases for their wines internationally. A few months after the Club Matador event, as a follow-up, Rodríguez hosted a meeting with 20 of the high-quality producers at his Remelluri estate. Three years of these meetings led to the formation of Futuro Viñador Collective, a non-profit association of terroir-driven wineries dedicated to modeling the future of the Spanish wine industry back to a time when small family-owned bodegas dominated the winemaking landscape. By encouraging and aiding new artisan producers, rediscovering forgotten regions, restoring abandoned vineyards, and protecting traditional winemaking methods, they hope to revive the rural communities of these areas and inject life back into the small villages that are struggling to exist today. As they so eloquently put it, “Our future lies in the past.” Brett Davis is a Master Sommelier for Maze Row 23





Photography ©Helen Cathcart and Spinach

LAS BEATAS Las Beatas is located in the village of Labastida in the most northwestern area of Rioja Alavesa with the tertiary soils of sandstone and marl. From 488 to 610 meters a.s.l, this ten-tier terraced vineyard wraps clockwise around the hillside from east to northwest facing. This old bush-trained vineyard with some newer plantings is a true field blend of eight or nine local varietals. The wines from this vineyard tend to be floral and elegant with multilayers of complexity. 1.9 ha; 1,527 bottles produced.

TABUÉRNIGA Tabuérniga is a narrow east-facing vertical vineyard just outside the village of Labastida, spanning an elevation of 518 to 640 meters a.s.l. with sandstone and marl soils. Bushtrained with a diverse varietal mixture where the shorter vegetative cycle grape varieties offer a unique expression producing sober, austere wines of depth and elegance. 2.7 ha; 3,960 bottles produced.

EL VELADO El Velado is an 80-year-old vineyard located on the easternmost part of the village of Lanciego at an elevation just below 610 meters a.s.l. Made up of chalky clay soils with bush trained Tempranillo, Garnacha and other red and white indigenous varietals. Even though Tempranillo is the highest percentage of the plantings, the southwest aspect provides full sunlight exposure allowing the Garnacha to fully express itself in the wines with red juicy fruit undertones. 0.93 ha; 1,495 bottles produced.

LA ESTRADA La Estrada was planted in the 1940s in the western part of the village of Lanciego. One of the highest elevation vineyards in the area at above 610 meters a.s.l., this small northeast facing plot is traditional bush-trained Tempranillo and Graciano planted in pure chalk clay. Wines from here tend to be firm and rustic showing great depth and balance. 0.64 ha; 2,037 bottles produced.


Led by a visionary winemaker, Telmo Rodríguez, Bodega Lanzaga is reshaping the conversation of what defines “Rioja.”

ORIGIN STORY With High on the Hog, Stephen Satterfield looks at US history through the lens of Black food to weave richly layered critical narratives. He speaks with Jordan Mackay

“What I took away from wine as it relates to narrative is that all narratives are a function of power. All narratives are a function of hierarchy and all narratives must be viewed through those prisms to be understood. Whoever is telling the story owns the story.”


f you haven’t yet watched Netflix’s High on the Hog, waste no more time. Inspired by Dr. Jessica B. Harris’ book of the same name, and tracing the roots of American cuisine back to its origins in Black culture, the series is one of the most meaningful and profound food shows ever produced. One of the reasons is its thoughtful host, Stephen Satterfield, a trained chef, sommelier and food writer whose fearless curiosity and sensitive demeanor propel the show. Satterfield takes the viewer into situations beautiful and tragic, and is always empathetic, warm, and analytical. Satterfield started out his screen career while a sommelier at the San Francisco restaurant Nopa in the late 2000s, by chronicling culinary stories on the restaurant’s media stream. He then went on to create Whetstone magazine, a labor of love which he initially hand-sold in San Francisco, before a homemade documentary on Georgian wine ultimately brought him to the attention of Netflix’s producers. Today he can’t go out without being recognized by fans. We caught up with him to chat about his passion for wine and how it informs his approach.

You’re a television figure now and a writer, but you used to also be a sommelier. How does that impact your life? I had actually sworn off doing any more interviews because I have shared a lot about my journey in the press. But the part of my story that I feel still close to and protective of and flattered when people engage me on is the wine. I am very far away from my origin story as a sommelier, except for the fact that wine is still my greatest joy and it’s the thing that brings me the most pleasure. Wine people don’t really know how formative being a sommelier was in my story. I am still in my core the dude who was popping bottles at Nopa [the San Francisco restaurant]. My trajectory from being a sommelier to television host and media entrepreneur all comes back to that restaurant, and it all comes back to my vocation as a somm. So, what role does wine play in your life today? I love wine still in the way that a sommelier loves it because the love of wine is so deeply personal. Yes, you can talk about it, but you can’t have a uniformly shared experience with wine. Ultimately, it is a personal experience. And so when I’m at a restaurant, and I’m looking over the wine list and thinking deeply, Photography ©Phyllis Iller

it’s the most high-stakes choice of my day: what I’m gonna drink with dinner. And there’s no performance in that. It’s not part of my vocation at the moment. It’s really because I am still chasing the euphoria on a personal level of drinking exactly the right thing with what I’m eating. And because it is so personal and it’s not a thing I have to really share, it allows me to stay connected to the thing I love without it feeling like work or performance. It was a search for origins and desire to tell stories that propelled you from sommelier to media entrepreneur. Narrative is a powerful force that, in one sense, you’re reclaiming in your Netflix series. What is narrative’s role in wine? Narrative is something that is so pervasive that it is inescapable, and that is not unique to the wine business, but the wine business is unique in that narrative has a somewhat outsized role in the way that the product is sold. And not only in the way that the product is marketed but in the role that the marketers, the wine professionals, occupy as narrators and storytellers. What I really took away from wine as it relates to narrative is that all narratives are a function of power. All narratives are a function of hierarchy and all narratives must be viewed through those prisms to be understood. Whoever is telling the story owns the story. Seeing how those narratives built a lucrative industry makes you realize that the people who own the infrastructure of the global wine business are the ones who are incentivized to create narratives that are hierarchical, to make châteaux aspirational, to create language and pageantry in something that is ultimately a peasant product: you know, fermented grapes. But by making the narrative, the product, more than fermented grapes, the folks who perpetuate that powerful narrative are the ones we can easily identify as the beneficiaries of the narratives. And so from that perspective, it actually makes it kind of easier to make sense of what we’re seeing when we’re consuming the perpetuated narratives of the wine business. And if you look at, again, in the same fashion, the folks who benefited from the wine story in the US, it tends to still be consolidated among those who are owners. But wine also has a certain rigor that is undeniable. You’ve said that the study of wine terroir informs the philosophy of your company

Whetstone Media, that wine “as an editorial angle, allows us to ask questions about the relationship between humans and food.” Yes, I mean I’m currently writing a book called Black Terroir, and you can probably infer exactly what the book is about – my own terroir, my own origins. Although, if we move beyond pageantry and exclusionary language, which “terroir,” I believe, perpetuates, we could just use the word origin, which is why Whetstone Media always talks about origins. We just decided that origins was another way to say terroir, right? Origins and terroir can mean the same thing, but the word terroir also implies a certain underlying complexity and even an analytical system for making sense of it. Probably the most – not probably, certainly – the most profound thing that I learned from being a sommelier is how to think differently about how I was engaging with the world. It was a profound gift for me to learn the language of terroir because it’s given me a brand new framework to think about life and to engage with life. And it’s a powerful framework because it is a framework of understanding that is supposed to, and in fact does allow people from different backgrounds to be able to connect to each other around a common language, a common shared vocabulary, that is at its core about understanding. Because terroir at its core is a framework that helps us better understand what we’re talking about. And it is that level of rigor that made me wish that my colleagues, mostly white men in the wine industry, could use the same process, the same rigorous evaluation in their own lives and dealing with other people, especially people from different backgrounds. This seems a core idea in your work now, and it’s interesting how much wine still informs that. I think it’s easier for me to adopt this perspective as the only Black sommelier I saw for large parts of my career. When everyone else is the same, it makes it hard to be a genuine original thinker. And I don’t mean that in a way to credit myself at all. I really literally mean that it’s easy to do when you are different. I recognized early on that my differentiated perspective was actually something I could use to my advantage, my professional advantage, because I knew that my peers didn’t arrive at the same conclusions that I did. And that’s driven me ever since. 31

Pauline Vicard is helping reshape the future of fine wine with her think tank ARENI Global. She tells Nargess Banks her views on the ever-evolving story of luxury hospitality


aith in collective intentions is central to ARENI Global, Pauline Vicard assures me as we settle down to discuss the future of luxury hospitality and fine wine. Through engaging academics and industry professionals worldwide, her research and action institute – which she co-founded in 2018 and of which she is the executive director – guides wineries, distributors and retailers in navigating the future of fine wine. Eric Asimov of The New York Times has likened the organization to a think tank in the fine wine world, one involving multiple voices. “Having diverse voices around the table improves the quality of our insights and analysis,” Vicard continues, quickly clarifying, “Diversity isn’t just about putting people together; it’s paying attention to how you curate those divergences of expertise. There’s value in actively searching for people who do not think like you. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a bubble.” Vicard and I first met over a decade ago. She had opened the “wine library” at Clerkenwell London – a design and fashion emporium where she was appointed wine director. Her wine shop was a stylish space with bottles artfully displayed like books in a library. A gorgeous hand-crafted table lay in the center for tastings, and there were paintings and objets d’art, spinning vintage vinyl, delicate golden lighting and candles filling the space with subtle smoky aromas. Having just published The Life Negroni, we were invited by Vicard to promote our book alongside a host of young independent makers of spirits. It was a buzzy affair of food and wine tasting, cocktail shaking, book reading,


and a DJ who played lively tunes into the night. Raised in a winemaking family in Burgundy and with deep wine knowledge, Vicard challenged guests to see, experience, and engage with her fine wine collection. Much of the audience was new to wine tasting. And I’m sure that evening would have lighted up the spirit of wine in many. Vicard understood the art of storytelling. She was ahead of the game. She smiles at the memory. “Clerkenwell London was built on creating connections: if you wanted to discuss creativity, design and fashion, you would go there. And food and wine was a part of this.” Sadly the store proved too costly and conceptual for its time and soon after folded, but it allowed Vicard to refine her skills. “I was interested in connecting with people who may not have been interested in wine or drinking, as there are still so many things that can fascinate them about wine,” she says of the experience. “With wine, there is always a connection to something else – to science, history, food, people. You don’t need to like wine or even be a drinker to find an interest.” GOING PLACES Vicard remains truly passionate about her craft of communicating fine wine and is clearly energized by our debate on luxury. I’m interested to see how she views the perils and possibilities of wine hospitality within a landscape heavily focused on the expe­riential. “The clever wineries will successfully decrypt what it is for them to propose a unique experience, and I’ve seen much care and dedication given to creating experiences and translating the sense of place through those experiences.”

This “sense of place,” be it physical, ideological, or spiritual, and how it informs our creative process (a theme we used to shape the Spring 2023 edition of VOICES) is a concept we hear more and more about within the food and wine community. “I find the term interesting,” she replies when I mention this. “The French have built their trade and industry around the term ‘terroir,’ it’s interesting how the New World (of wine) has taken possession of ‘sense of place.’ It’s as though a new language has been created for their reality.” She warms to the subject. “Sense of place is the bridge between typicity, traditionally driven by the region and style of wine, and authenticity, which you can interpret in very different ways. It builds the bridge between your identity individually and as a winery. The concept speaks to us all.” I ask how Vicard views the concept shaping wine hospitality. “When building experiences at wineries, the sense of place is taking ‘terroir’ to a different level,” she replies. “It’s about understanding your identity, outside of soil and grape variety, but as an individual winery within a local context and community. From what I’ve seen, the world of hospitality in South African wineries reflects this well. Terroir wouldn’t allow that.” FEELGOOD FACTOR We move onto the inevitable subject of the pandemic, a pause for many industries, especially hospitality, to rethink their propositions. Famously, chef Daniel Humm turned his Michelin-star New York restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, entirely plant-based and set up a free healthy food truck in the city’s most deprived area. And there were countless other

examples of chefs and restaurateurs reevaluating their sense of purpose. “People at the top in fine dining and fine wine tend to be thinkers; that’s how they get to be there, but the questioning accelerated,” she admits. “Excellence is still a major driver, but that term is being reinterpreted. Whereas before, the notion of excellence, say in food, would have come in one shape or form – Michelin stars, white tablecloths, etc. – now it allows for more paths that don’t follow the same codes. The notion of excellence will also follow this idea of eating well, eating healthy, eating responsibly, eating without, meaning without pain to animals or people. You know the origin of the word restaurant is to restore, to restore your health, and chefs are returning to this notion.” I interrupt her flow to understand the role of fine wine and how we talk about wine within this new luxury landscape, which is evolving to be more transformational rather than being about experience alone. She replies simply: “Wine will follow. Be it driven by the winemakers or consumers, wineries will show how hospitality and the experience can make you happier and help you feel better.” We both agree this will liberate the wine educator and communicator, who has even more freedom to use knowledge, history, people, location, and the age-old art of storytelling to add layers to how we experience wine. “A sommelier’s job isn’t just to open and pour wine but to make sure the wine tastes better for you, and the process can take many routes: play on joy, memory, and emotion. If hospitality can help you think about life positively, that adds value. And wine shouldn’t struggle to do this too much since we have so many stories to tap into.”

But where do you draw the line between being inclusive without losing the sense of exclusivity that is fundamental to the concept of luxury? “It’s a tricky question as luxury needs to be aspirational,” she replies, quickly adding, “Aspirational, though, doesn’t always translate to expensive. And, although in certain markets price is still a big driver, elsewhere fine wine is about lifestyle.” After a moment’s thought, she returns to the subject. “Exclusivity is always part of the game in the luxury sector, though. You walk a fine line between what is needed to be exclusive and what can be done to include more people in that dream and aspiration. This could mean having a second or a third wine for those who can’t access the ‘dream’ wine.” Storytelling, I suggest, is a powerful tool to excite, engage and be transformative without the need for a physical exchange. “Yes, but this requires the winery to really care about being inclusive, care for the people who can’t afford fine wine but are interested,” she offers. “Then the winery can find ways to engage with them. This also involves seeing people beyond the traditional faces who consume wine – diverse people of different ethnic makeups and abilities.” A WIDER REACH This neatly brings us to the hot topic of the language of wine and how the so-called global north has been largely directing the discourse, which has, by default, excluded certain parts of the world. Vicard agrees that there is a definite bias. “The New World has been influenced by the Old World, which impacts language and references. But it’s changing, and this switching of ‘terroir’ to ‘sense of place’ symbolizes this,”

she says with a smile. “I see more interesting and open-minded people joining the wine world, expanding on the vocabulary of wine, and communicating in a global context. We are moving from a European vision of fine wine to a more international perspective.” Advancing technology, the rise of virtual reality and the metaverse offer a myriad of opportunities for the luxury sector to expand its audience. It’s undoubtedly an area high fashion has been exploring for some time. Vicard also sees an opportunity here for fine wine. “Experience shouldn’t end at a visit to the winery. Besides, only something like 10 percent of consumers will travel to the winery.” In a world where we will have to be more mindful of air travel and our carbon footprint, it’s fundamental to curate other transportable experiences. “That’s the next step,” she says. “And in the context of diversity, if you want the experience to be transportable, your identity needs to be visible, and take other worlds and interests into account. There is so much story in wine, that is a guarantee, we just have to select the ones that engage others.”

Pauline Vicard, executive director at ARENI Global, an organization she co-founded in 2018 to help guide wineries, distributors and retailers. ©Pauline Vicard 33


The concept of luxury is constantly shifting, explains Peter Yeung, as shown by the wealth of new high-end experiences in the world of hospitality and wine


imeless. It is one of the core tenets of luxury. Brands such as Louis Vuitton, Rolex, and Rolls-Royce have defined luxury for hundreds of years. Their iconic emblems, a symbol of quality, prestige and differentiation, all critical elements of luxury. However, that does not mean that luxury is static. One of the paradoxes of luxury, as outlined by JeanNoël Kapferer and Vincent Bastien in their book The Luxury Strategy, is “it must maintain both timelessness and trendiness at the same time.” Understanding how luxury is changing and how it impacts the hospitality and wine industries first requires an understanding of what makes luxury what it is. For consumers, this encompasses four elements – financial, social, functional and individual. Luxury tends to be expensive (financial), creates a signal of differentiation to others (social), is of high quality (functional), and makes the owner feel good (individual). Yet these elements are not equally important for everyone. Culturally, Kapferer and Bastien note that the French and English tend towards appreciating luxury for the product itself and as part of a lifestyle, more functional and individual. Whereas Americans and Chinese tend towards the social and financial elements of differentiating oneself. 36

While this could be considered innately cultural, an alternative hypothesis is that as cultures become more rooted in success, over time they gravitate towards the functional and individual elements of luxury. Certainly, in the US, some are becoming more discreet. The unbranded hoodie, a current fashion statement of both celebrities and the Silicon Valley crowd, can cost over $100, while not looking very different from a $20 hoodie from, say, The Gap. People buy the hoodies for their product quality, comfort and feel, moving away from the social towards the functional and individual. ON THE MENU In hospitality and wine, luxury continues to evolve into a more product and story-based experience from overt signals of luxury. The venerable Michelin Guide, once populated with only white tablecloth restaurants, has since awarded two Singaporean hawker stalls (street food vendors) a Michelin Star. The world of ultra luxury dining, with tweezer-based precision, molecular gastronomy, and rare and unusual ingredients has gotten so extreme that it is leading to the closure of the world’s top restaurant Noma (2024) and has been parodied in the movie The Menu (2022).

René Redzepi, owner and chef of Noma, has called fine dining “unsustainable, financially and emotionally.” The joy in luxury hospitality needs to be inherent in the experience. In a scene from The Menu, actress Anya-Taylor Joy’s character, Margot, notes: “You’ve taken the joy out of eating. Every dish you served tonight has been some intellectual exercise rather than something you want to sit and enjoy. When I eat your food, it tastes like it was made with no love.” The sometimes sterile formality of traditional “luxury” hospitality can take the joy out of it. Wine has seen similar trends. With wine tastings becoming by appointment experiences that often exceed $100 or $200 per person, now have a feeling of formality. More attention, food pairings, luxury furniture and spaces are all landing in wineries globally, particularly in Napa. The best executed can elevate the brand and wines, enabling the winery to showcase its story and essence. Previous page and right, three-Michelin-star restaurant Noma’s artistic menu is about rediscovering wild local ingredients through foraging and by following the seasons. Above, Ralph Fiennes starring as the chef in Mark Mylod’s comedy horror, The Menu (2022)

Photography ©Ditte Isager, Alamy



Yue Minjun, Contemporary Terracotta Warriors (2005), courtesy of Donum Estate art collection

“More attention, food pairings, luxury furniture and spaces are all landing in wineries globally, particularly in Napa. The best executed can elevate the brand and wines, enabling the winery to showcase its story and essence”

SENSES & SENSIBILITY The Donum Estate, in the Carneros region of Sonoma, has thread the needle well. It showcases a world-class art collection embedded in the vines, biodynamic gardens, and high-quality Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays; the experience is a full sensory one that cannot be described any other way besides luxury. However, the worst, of which there are many, feel overwrought and more a grasp at imbuing a feeling of luxury where there naturally is not one. Too many try to follow others instead of truly understanding themselves and crafting experiences that highlight those individual traits. Being “timeless and trendy” requires constant evolution. As three-Michelin star restaurants close, new luxury concepts take their place and evolve what luxury means. A new concept, The Oakville Grill & Cellar in Chicago, from Lettuce Entertain You, which includes the RPM restaurants, is one example. Richard Hanauer, partner and wine director, in an interview for podcast XChateau, said they took inspiration from a Californian ethos of hospitality, particularly Napa – never pretentious, never formal, but very comfortable, pleasurable, and with elevated service and quality of food. Exporting that Californian ethos to Chicago is just one example in a growing trend of how luxury is evolving in hospitality. Photography ©Robert Berg

Wine is also evolving in its construction of luxury. Where once two-pound empty glass bottles and highly adorned labels signified luxury in wine, more environmentally friendly versions are now luxury. Some are taking the experience of wine beyond its roots of pairing with food to bring in all the senses, particularly sight and sound. Biondi-Santi, the iconic Brunello producer, has begun to pair audiobooks with their wines; while Catena Zapata in Argentina has hosted operas about Malbec’s story, changing the definition of luxury in wine. Susan Lin MW, of Belmont Wine Exchange, has done significant research into how music impacts the perception of wine, leading to the potential for new evolutions of luxury. “Luxury takes its time, it has time,” is another tenet of luxury expounded by Kapferer and Bastien. As we witness the changes in how luxury defines itself in hospitality and wine, what often appears to be leaps are plates slowly moving under our feet. The old definitions crumble and melt into the earth, while the new forms bubble up from below. Peter Yeung and Liz Thach are authors of “Luxury Wine Marketing” (2019)


Anselm Kiefer, Mohn und Geda êchtnis (2017), courtesy of Donum Estate art collection Photography ©Adrian Gaut

Jaume Plensa, Sanna (2015), courtesy of Donum Estate art collection 42

Tracey Emin, All I Want is You (2016), courtesy of Donum Estate art collection

Photography ©Robert Berg, Anthony Laurino



Alicia Towns Franken, executive director of nonprofit organization Wine Unify, talks to Kyla Marshell about race and diversity – or lack of – in the wine business

“Everyone talks about a gooseberry, but this is something that the majority of people haven’t had. For cultures that don’t have that, we’ve just alienated them. It’s all about meeting people where they’re at and using a language that translates for everyone” Alicia Towns Franken


erhaps you’ve had a moment like this: a time-stopping, world-shifting, neverbe-the same kind of experience that changed your life for the better. For Alicia Towns Franken, it happened in her twenties on the floor of Boston’s Grill 23 & Bar, when a coworker handed her a glass of red burgundy. “I forgot all the things I had to do,” she recalls. “It literally made me stop in my tracks, and all the flavors, the aromas, everything about that glass of wine was just like this epiphany.” Within the year, Franken, up-to-then unsure of her career path, went from a server to the director of the wine program, transforming it from a two-page list to a 60-page book with over 900 selections. That was over 25 years ago, and in the years since, Franken has established herself as a leading wine professional, event planner and advocate for marginalized communities in the wine industry. In 2022, she became the first executive director of Wine Unify, a nonprofit whose mission is to support lesser-heard voices in wine, with a focus on people of color, through education, resources, awards and scholarships. For Franken, it was a natural progression to take the helm of the organization. She left the wine world to raise her children, who are now young adults, but in her decision to come back, knew she needed something that would be “impactful and meaningful.” That was Wine Unify, the kind of program, she says, she could have used in her early days. “I was the only Black wine professional in Boston for a long time, and it felt like being on an island,” she says. Photography ©Alicia Towns Franken

Where she could, she learned from and worked with others she could relate to – the two female sommeliers she hired at Grill 23, creating an almost-unheard-of all-female team; and the first other wine person of color she met: “I didn’t want to let him leave my restaurant. I was just like, tell me everything.” Wine Unify was created in 2020 by DLynn Proctor, Mary Margaret McCamic and Martin Reyes, operating as an all-volunteer effort; Franken initially came on as a board member and head of mentorship. Their three-pronged mission is focused on three initiatives: welcoming those who are interested, but not yet professionally involved, in wine; elevating the careers of those who are; and amplifying diverse voices throughout the industry. To date, they’ve given out 142 monetary awards at four different levels which support education, certification, and more. Franken is proud of and confident in their approach. “What I think makes us successful is that we give them all the pieces, all the resources they need. So yes, we’re paying for your credential, but we’re also giving you extra wine to study. And even glassware to put that wine in. They’re working in a cohort so they’re not on an island by themselves, as I was. Every level gets mentoring. I pair people with the mentors that I think they need. And all of our mentors are of color.” That approach – “democratizing wine,” as she calls it, also includes skirting the Eurocentric language that is so common to the predominantly white wine industry. “Everyone talks about a gooseberry, but this is something that the majority of people haven’t had,” she points out.

“For cultures that don’t have that, we’ve just alienated them. It’s all about meeting people where they’re at and using a language that translates for everyone.” Wine Unify currently has a 100 percent pass rate for its students. Recent success stories include a 70-something social justice attorney turned bed-and-breakfast owner whose goal was to offer tastings for her guests; and a young woman from Alabama who did a ten-day immersion program in Piemonte, Italy. Franken has her own initiative she’s undertaken, an extension of Wine Unify she’s operating with her husband, called Towns Wine Company, which will invest in female winemakers of color. Their first wine, out of South Africa, releases this fall. But her main focus continues to be mentorship. She sparkles when she talks about her work, so clearly aligned with her purpose. “I wake up happy with my job every single day. I couldn’t say that before. I absolutely love what I do.”


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Is it time to drop the name Super Tuscan and focus on quality? Cynthia Chaplin explores the new landscape of Italy’s most famous and prolific wine region


First produced in 1988, Brancaia’s Il Blu’s focus is on the authenticity of the blend of international Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and native Sangiovese

“Winemaking has changed, with less muscle, more elegance, less concentration and more smoothness” Bibi Graetz


he creation of the original “Super Tuscans” in the early 1970s sprang from a rebellion against restrictive DOC/ DOCG regulations, fired by a renegade spirit among a handful of prominent producers who had a vision for creating high-quality, internationally attractive wines. Chianti, in the beating heart of central Tuscany, and Bolgheri, on the southern shore of the region, provided the stage for Mario Incisa della Rocchetta and nephews Piero and Lodovico Antinori to experiment. Aiming for Bordeaux-style blends, using international grapes not permitted in the denomination, yet often continuing to include native Sangiovese, this group of innovators crafted excellent fine wines that immediately shot to fame and fortune. Sassicaia, Tignanello, Ornellaia and Solaia became legendary, iconic wines and took on an identity all their own. The name Super Tuscan is an invention of wine critics who needed a way to separate these new wines from more traditional Tuscan wines still following the regulations. The general consensus attributes the first mention of Super Tuscan to Robert Parker, the legendary wine critic, who scored the 1985 vintage of Sassicaia 100 points and declared he often confused the Italian wine with Mouton Rothschild from Bordeaux. Over time, the Italian government caught on to the folly of denying these successful wines

access to a denomination; however, the Super Tuscan category had by then developed its own identity and acclaim, leaving many producers unwilling to accept less scintillating denomination names, such as Toscana IGT. The handful of original rebels developed cult followings and spawned decades of copycats. LABEL MATES Ironically, 50 years later, we see a decline in interest in the vast sea of Super Tuscan wines that came on the heels of the truly visionary wines created at the start. Many of the best producers have turned their backs on the moniker, preferring to focus on the quality they achieve. In the March 2023 issue Food & Wine, winemaker Giuseppe Mazzocolin of Fattoria di Felsina puts it this way: “I think one of the problems is that Super Tuscans are misunderstood. These wines are not just the story of a vineyard or a grape but the story of a people who created something that is unique.” Where does this leave us? On the one hand, fine wine consumers know the individual names of the iconic wines and request them by those names, rather than using the Super Tuscan umbrella. This indicates these consumers have sifted through this category of wine, chosen their favorites and don’t need the category to guide them. As renowned wine writer, critic and judge Robert Joseph describes the situation: “There

are three groups of people: the ones who know everything, or almost, such as producers, critics and collectors, for whom Super Tuscan is old hat. But there aren’t many of these. Then there are the people who know little or nothing about wine. There are lots of them, but they are irrelevant. Then there are the huge numbers who know a little and, for them, Super Tuscan may still have resonance when they look it up online.” THE NEXT CHAPTER Confronted with these tiers of consumers, producers of wines such as Brancaia’s Il Blu, first made in 1988, now focus on the authenticity of the blend of native Sangiovese and international Merlot. The percentage has changed over time, gradually adding more Merlot and reducing the Sangiovese (the 2020 blend is 80 percent Merlot, 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 percent Sangiovese) as Il Blu evolved into a wine that is truly tied to the territory. Brancaia’s Merlot vineyards are now over 30 years old, and the blend genuinely reflects the Tuscan terroir, rather than seeking to mimic a Bordeaux style. Recent trends suggest the concept of identity and sense of place in wine is important to newer wine consumers who want wines made with native grapes expressing a unique terroir. Modern consumers also look for biodynamic or organic certifications and shy away from fanciful names and undecipherable labels lacking information about what is actually in the bottle. 47

The Brancaia estate near Radda in Chianti, central Tuscany

This trend plays into the hands of Tuscan producers who rebelled against the regulations that did not allow wines made with 100 percent native Sangiovese, as many current consumers now specifically seek out wines that are made with native grapes only. Due to changes in the denomination in 1984, 1996 and 2006, the average quality of wine, especially in the Chianti Classico region, has improved dramatically. Investment, research into Sangiovese clones and support from the Chianti Classico consortium have led to the development of wines that show a clear Tuscan authenticity, exalting the fresh, earthy, floral and bright cherry notes expected from the best expressions of Sangiovese. The regulations now allow single varietal Sangiovese wines but, like their Super Tuscan compatriots in Maremma and Bolgheri whose denominations now allow international varieties, the best producers continue to keep their top-quality wines outside the denomination. The focus is on finely crafted wines that speak with authority about their home and heritage. As Bibi Graetz, famed for his eponymous winery near Florence, remarked in a May 2023 article by Wine Enthusiast: “Winemaking has changed, with less muscle, more elegance, less concentration and more smoothness.” Graetz uses purely native Tuscan grapes and says his “two wines were considered to fall within the Super Tuscan framework, yet they break the 50

first rule of Super Tuscans. They were, and are, 100 percent Tuscan grapes.” One last piece of the puzzle revolves around producers who took the Super Tuscan revolution all the way to the edge; with a legacy of hard work and determination, their international-style wines, made using no native grapes, have emerged as the purest descendants of the original vision. Along Tuscany’s southern coast, Bolgheri wines such as Sondraia and Dedicato a Walter from Poggio al Tesoro give us a glimpse in the glass of the dreams and aspirations of the groundbreaking Super Tuscans such as Antinori and Incisa della Rocchetta. Both wines release a breath of Mediterranean seaside herbs, with structure and sophistication that whisper to us of the warm climate and stony soils that are the soul of Bolgheri. Although the grapes are not native to the area, these wines have become among the best ambassadors for the denomination. MIDDLE COURSE Perhaps the most interesting way to approach the “should we or shouldn’t we” conundrum surrounding the Super Tuscan name lies in a beautiful middle-ground seen in wines like those of Argiano in Montalcino. At the crossroads of the Chianti, Brunello and Bolgheri denominations, Argiano’s Solengo is the perfect example of commitment to quality, tradition, location and

creativity combined to reveal what could be the best next chapter for Super Tuscan wines. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Sangiovese, this wine was nurtured by the epic hands of Giacomo Tachis in the early 1990s and has garnered rave reviews from the most experienced critics around the world. Could it be that breaking all the rules and throwing open the doors to experimentation has ultimately brought the very best producers in the region right back home to their roots? Solengo and other excellent wines being produced nearby certainly point in that direction. In these bottles we find the essence of Tuscany, the hot dry summers that ripen the grapes, the diversity of soils, altitudes and aspects that Tuscany offers, as well as the influence of the sea and the impact of skilled winemakers devoting time and love to their work. Do we need the Super Tuscan category anymore? Possibly not. Is it more detrimental than helpful when we talk about these wines? Potentially so. More importantly, it appears we should turn our attention to understanding and promoting these incredibly expressive, high-quality wines that have the power to transport us instantly to the beauty of Tuscany where they were born. Cynthia Chaplin is a Professor of Italian Wine, WSET educator, and host on “Italian Wine Podcast”

In Bolgheri, wines such as Poggio al Tesoro’s Sondraia and Dedicato a Walter give us a glimpse in the glass of the dreams and aspirations of the groundbreaking Super Tuscans 51


In wines like Montalcino winery Argiano’s Solengo we find the essence of Tuscany

IL BLU 2020 Brancaia’s flagship expression, a Super Tuscan from vineyards in Chianti Classico. A blend of 80 percent Merlot, 10 percent Sangiovese, and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Estate grown from vineyards in Radda and Castellina in Chianti. Organic. 30 year old vines. Aged 18 months in new and used barriques, and three months in concrete.

SONDRAIA 2019 Poggio al Tesoro’s flagship wine, a powerful and structured Super Tuscan. A blend of 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot, and 10 percent Cabernet Franc from sandy clay and limestone soils. Estate grown. Organic. 20 year old vines. Aged for 20 months in 50 percent new and 50 percent second-use barriques, and nine months in bottle.

DEDICATO A WALTER 2019 Poggio al Tesoro’s top expression, a single-vineyard, monovarietal wine dedicated to Walter Allegrini, one of the founders of the estate who passed away in 2003. 100 percent Cabernet Franc. Estate grown. Organic. 30 year old vines. Aged for two years in new barriques.

SOLENGO 2021 From the Argiano estate, the first Super Tuscan wine produced in Montalcino, and originally made by the legendary oenologist Giacomo Tachis. A blend of 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot, 20 percent Petit Verdot, and five percent Sangiovese. Estate grown. Organic. 15-22 year old vines. Aged 18 months in 60 percent new and 40 percent second-use barriques.

Photography ©Helen Cathcart, Rob Lawson


A CUT ABOVE Chicago’s Maple & Ash is redefining the traditional steakhouse by offering not only prime steaks but also an extensive, carefully put together wine list, as Tom Hyland finds out


teakhouses have been an integral part of Chicago’s dining scene since the city’s founding in the late 1830s. For many of today’s examples, their formula for success depends on two things: a high-end cut of beef together with a wine list that features big reds, typically numerous Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley. While many downtown establishments deliver the former, only a handful have assembled a wine selection that goes beyond the norm; of these Maple & Ash, located just west of the high-rent district of North Michigan Avenue, has become a temple for wine lovers looking not just for the usual offerings, but also for unique pairings from around the world. That’s only fitting, as Maple & Ash is not your typical steakhouse, as regional executive chef Austin Adler explains. “We’ve always prided ourselves on being able to change and be more of a modern twist on a steakhouse.” Noting how creamed spinach is a standard side dish at many steakhouses, Adler remarks that their version is different. “We’re going to do it our way. We’re going to get the best spinach, it’s going to be lightly wilted, mixed with mornay or some sort of fonduta – we’ll do it our way. So it’s special, loving, and you still feel at home, but we make it Maple & Ash.” National wine director Amy Mundwiler, who joined the restaurant when it opened in 2015, opted to create a wine program that matched the vibe described by Adler, as she explains. “Meaning how do you build a wine list that has all the classics, but not a boring steakhouse


list. How do we present the list to make it fun, to make it interesting, to make people want to look through it?” Mundwiler has answered this question by assembling a 2,400-bottle list with classic offerings from around the world; a good percentage being white and sparkling. There are more than 20 German whites, a dozen or so Alsatian whites and 200 white Burgundies (this section comprising eight pages of the 100-page list). You can easily spend more than $1,000 on such iconic selections such as Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes and Les Pucelles or Domaine Ramonet Corton-Charlemagne, but there are also several offerings of white Burgundy for less than $150, and even some costing less than $100. Why so many of these wines? It’s down to executive chef/partner Danny Grant: “Chef Grant loves white Burgundy, that’s his thing, so we have an extensive list of these bottles,” Mundwiler explains. But almost everyone who dines here wants a full-bodied red, and yes, there are 270-plus Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux blends from California, with several verticals (Chateau Montelena, Corison, Abreu, Bond, Staglin Estate) that a diner can choose from. Mundwiler clearly has done her homework here, but personally, she looks elsewhere for a wine with steak. “My favorite pairing is Nebbiolo,” she proclaims; there are more than 30 Barolos to choose from (including the 2018 Ratti Barolo “Marcenasco”), while for Sangiovese lovers, there are verticals of Monsanto Il Poggio Chianti Classico, Tignanello, as well as seven offerings of Biondi-Santi Brunello

di Montalcino Riserva. She also fancies Syrah with steak and offers numerous examples from the Rhône Valley (including a dazzling vertical of Guigal Côte-Rôtie), California and Washington State. PERFECT SETTING Befitting the restaurant’s amazing culinary agenda, the interior of Maple & Ash is stunning. There is a handsome street-level bar (along with outside dining when the weather permits) that is crowded afternoon and night, and where a smaller food and wine menu and glitzy cocktails are served. The main dining room is reached by elevator two floors up, where diners are awed by the huge ceilings, candlelit tables (there is minimal light in the dining room), leather couches and a partially open kitchen with a wood-burning stove. “We do have a beautiful lounge here,” says Mundwiler, “so if someone is still enjoying themselves drinking cocktails, we invite them to have a drink on us, a cocktail or a glass from our wines by the glass list.” Adler aims for six menu changes per year. “Seasonal steak dishes, halibut, whitefish or salmon are always changing with the seasons.” Mundwiler notes the shift in drinking habits with the variable weather in Chicago. “White wine sales go up when the weather gets warmer; there’s also a rosé season, although I drink rosé year-round.” Sparkling wine is also well-consumed at the restaurant throughout the year. “Champagne sales have gone up insane since Covid,” Mundwiler explains. “It’s wild how much Champagne

Chicago’s Maple & Ash, on the high-rent district of North Michigan Avenue, offers a modern twist on a steakhouse, and is a temple for wine lovers looking not just your classics, but also unique pairings from around the world, as assembled by national wine director Amy Mundwiler

“How do you build a wine list that has all the classics, but not a boring steakhouse list? How do we present the list to make it fun, to make it interesting, to make people want to look through it?” Amy Mundwiler


we’re selling. It might be because people can celebrate. I think people started drinking Champagne and then realized, ‘I can drink this every day if I want to’.” As for the customer base, Mundwiler explains they have diners who make reservations months in advance for a special occasion. “That’s a lot of weight on our shoulders to make sure we live up to that expectation,” she comments. Given the ritzy location along with the outstanding experience, there are many locals that frequent the restaurant (including many celebrated Chicago athletes), who no doubt enjoy their evening. “We have the people that like to party on the weekends and at night,” says Mundwiler. Maple & Ash has a location in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is opening another venue in Miami. Will Mundwiler put together a different wine program there? “100 percent,” she says. “I’ve already researched some wine lists down there.” The wine program at Maple & Ash is clearly one of the finest in the country, but lest you think that it’s all serious business for Mundwiler and her team, consider the “I Don’t Give a F*@K” dining option, in which the restaurant will take care of everything for $200 per person for the food and $160 per person for the wine (or for those willing to spend $500 per person on wine, there is “The Baller” option.) So much for the belief that a big-city steakhouse has to be conventional. ALTERNATIVE RESTAURANTS TO TRY IN CHICAGO OSTERIA LANGHE The brainchild of Aldo Zaninotto, a former Italian wine agent, the venue in the Bucktown neighborhood is Chicago’s most authentic home for the wines and foods of Piedmont’s Langhe region. Standout pastas include plin and gnocchi al Castelmagno, while the prosciutto-wrapped rabbit loin is a classic. QUARTINO Located on State Street in the fashionable River North district, Quartino is managed by chef John Coletta, who has headed the American team at the Culinary Olympics. A wildly popular place for small servings of salumi, pizza, and of course, Italian wines and cheeses. SPACCA NAPOLI Named for the district in Naples that is home to some of the city’s most famous pizzerie, this is home to some of the finest Neapolitan pizzas outside of Italy. Proprietor Jonathan Goldsmith, a certified pizzaiolo who worked for several years in Naples, offers 20 different pizzas at this handsome dining room in the city’s northside Ravenswood district. AVLI RIVER NORTH The most exciting Greek restaurant in Chicago (there are three locations in the city along with the original in the north suburbs), Avli is headed by executive chef Panos Chalikiopoulos, who previously worked in some of Greece’s most heralded restaurants. Highlights include small plates and spreads such as tzatziki and taramosalata. Maple & Ash specializes in steak, among other mouthwatering recipes, and it is a temple for wine lovers with a 2,400-bottle list to include classics from around the world 56

Photography ©Brad Olson and Maple & Ash



Along Tuscany’s southern coast in Bolgheri, Poggio al Tesoro makes wines that are fresh and elegant and deeply connected to this part of Tuscany. Nargess Banks pays a visit to CEO Marilisa Allegrini


he drive to Poggio al Tesoro’s prime plots takes you through Strada Bolgherese. This long, elegant boulevard is lined with majestic centuries-old cypress trees that lead straight to the medieval town of Bolgheri. Italy’s first Nobel Prize winner in literature, Giosuè Carducci, famously wrote of Strada Bolgherese in his 1887 poem “Davanti a San Guido”: “The cypress trees stand straight and true from Bolgheri to San Guido in double rows.” And it is a cinematic treat that awakens you to this more rugged southern coast of Tuscany, one that is famed for its wines and in particular the cultish, nearly fetishized Super Tuscans. Poggio al Tesoro is Marilisa Allegrini’s beloved winery, her jewel, founded in 2001 with her late brother Walter. With their main family estate Allegrini in Valpolicella (see “Cream of the crop” p66) established, the siblings were after a new adventure, a land far from their native Veneto, where they could explore new ways of growing and making. So they went “Tuscan shopping,” as Marilisa jokingly puts it. “Allegrini was in a good place, so we decided to find something and somewhere outside of our comfort zone,” she says. “I remember the exact day. It was October 14, 2001, and we went to the Tuscan coast, starting at the bottom to see

the different possible acquisitions. When we arrived in Bolgheri we said, if we do something outside Valpolicella, it will be here,” she recalls with a smile, gesturing to our lush surroundings. A dedicated building for hospitality and with guest accommodation will open next spring, but for now wine tasting takes place in a sheltered seating area, the Salotto in Vigna, nestled among a variety of oaks, and with views over the vines and age-old olive trees at the southernmost point of the Sondraie vineyard. It’s a beautiful, secluded spot, where you feel at one with nature, I comment. She agrees: “The nature, the landscape are so beautiful. When we came here Bolgheri was, of course, already producing excellent wines, and we were attracted by the area’s possibilities.” This region of Tuscany enjoys great soil diversity and a favorable microclimate thanks to the gentle breeze from the nearby sea. Some of the most important vineyards in the Bolgheri area are found along the Strada Bolgherese, a part of the appellation known locally as Soprastrada since some of the most complex and elegant wines originate from here. Poggio al Tesoro has four vineyards across the region, at Via Bolgherese, Chiesina di San Giuseppe, Le Sondraie, and Valle di Cerbaia. Each plot produces very different expressions of wine.

From the start, vineyard manager Walter, who passed away unexpectedly in 2003, vigilantly tested each plot, digging deep to test the soil composition. He studied the microclimates to see which grape variety would best suit which plot. Marilisa explains, “From our discovery, we planted Merlot in the clay soil, Cabernet Sauvignon in the sandy soil, Cabernet Franc in the limestone, and Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in the area along the Strada Bolgherese where we have pebbles, which is the best soil for the grapes. We also decided which wines to vinify by themselves. It was a fantastic experience in terms of creativity,” she says looking across the vineyard before adding, “Walter’s spirit remains here.” SEEKING FRESHNESS When Marilisa, Walter and their brother Franco (he passed away earlier this year), inherited the Allegrini winery in 1983, they set out to continue their father Giovanni’s quest to create the highest-quality cru wines in Valpolicella. It was a big challenge and it took some time, but they succeeded in creating a clean and fresh Amarone that transformed the wine’s reputation in markets like the US. Likewise, the freshness at Poggio al Tesoro sets the wines apart in Bolgheri. 59

“I don’t wish to make a lot of wine. I want to make great wine. This is what excites me” Marilisa Allegrini

Earlier that day we visited the cellar, a simple, clean and clear space where steel tanks are used for vinification; there are separate spaces for the barriques to keep the wines at different temperatures and ensure perfect aging. And although there is some experimentation during vinification using amphorae and terracotta vessels that began during the 2016 harvest on a selection of Solosole and Cassiopea, it appears a connection to land takes center stage here. “In Valpolicella the key wine is Amarone, which is made of a drying process that combines viticulture but also technique. Here at Poggio al Tesoro you have to rely on the land,” says Marilisa. “We focus on the choice of both viticulture and vineyard management in order to achieve one very important concept in wine that is freshness. It has been a fantastic learning experience, as with viticulture you never stop learning. You have to adapt your choices to what nature gives you.” A great example is the estate’s flagship Sondraia, a Super Tuscan produced with the best grapes from the parcels. It’s a blend of 65 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot and a touch of Cabernet Franc, “although the blend isn’t a mathematical formula,” adds Marilisa with a chuckle. She explains: 60

“Cabernet Sauvignon has the power and intensity as well as the structure, Merlot gives the roundness and Cabernet has the spiciness. This is the style we wanted for the wine. It is elegant. We learnt in Valpolicella that power, structure and opulence are all important, but the key thing for longevity is elegance.” Another of Poggio al Tesoro’s most prized wines is the small-production 100 percent Cabernet Franc Dedicato a Walter. “Cabernet Franc is now considered a very important grape in Bolgheri, but at the time it wasn’t so,” explains Marilisa. “The Cabernet Franc in Veneto is very green, while here you have a perfect maturation. From the very first year we decided to concentrate on this. When Walter passed away, I decided to dedicate the wine to him.” PLEASURE PRINCIPLE Hospitality at Allegrini is at the historic Villa della Torre in Fumane, Veneto. It’s a passion project for Marilisa, as are her other patronage and engagements with the arts which include involvement with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Spending time with Marilisa, it’s apparent that her approach to winemaking, and the way she runs the wineries and hospitality, are part of a wider belief in cultivating an aesthetic of beauty and pleasure.

Previous page, Marilisa Allegrini, CEO of Allegrini and Poggio al Tesoro, photographed at Strada Bolgherese in Bolgheri, Tuscany. This page, the top-rated Sondraia is Poggio al Tesoro’s flagship wine, produced with the best grapes from the estate, and Walter's tree, planted in his memory

Her face lights up when I mention this. “We became very close to the arts when I purchased Villa della Torre, the jewel of the Italian Renaissance. You know art is so essential to Italy, we have such a rich history, and so you have to be sensitive to this, and give something back.” This includes collaborating with contemporary artists through the limited artist edition on the Allegrini La Grola, a project that began in 2010 with work by the Italian comic book artist Milo Manara and has involved some renowned names in the international art world, including the Japanese artist Hiroyuki Masuyama. I’m curious to know if she has similar art label projects in mind for Poggio al Tesoro. “We don’t copy ideas across the two wineries but we are open to a different approach for here,” she replies. Her daughters Carlotta and Caterina are increasingly involved with the winery. She tells me with great pride how Carlotta fell in love with Poggio al Tesoro when she spent time here while studying to be a medical doctor in nearby Florence. Looking around me, I’m not at all surprised. “She’s spoken of starting a limited-edition label that looks at the flora of the area starting from the wildflowers in the hills to the sea. Maybe in the future we will hire a young artist to make a painting of these flowers. Nature is so important to this part of Tuscany.”


Looking ahead, the next big project is to complete the hospitality offering and guesthouse, which opens next year. Marilisa is aware that to experience the wines fully, afficionados need to stay here, be immersed in this glorious part of Tuscany. “We want them to fall in love with the wines, the company and the area. We want to make people curious. Bolgheri has so many special qualities: its proximity to the hills, the nearby sea, the beautiful landscape and archaeological sites. There is lots to discover and explore.” She takes a moment before continuing.“With winemaking you have to have patience. At Poggio al Tesoro we were starting from scratch, like my father did at Allegrini. Even if you’re a well-known winemaker elsewhere, you still need to demonstrate that you are able to make the company successful. The vines need to mature to give you the best quality, you need to promote the products and demonstrate that you are committed to quality. It’s been a long process.” Earlier in the day I spoke with the agronomist Franco Dal Colle, whose passion for farming and respect for land (he calls himself a “vine whisperer”) evokes the spirit of Poggio al Tesoro. He told me how sustainable practices Photography ©Helen Cathcart

and encouraging biodiversity are fundamental to Poggio al Tesoro’s winemaking philosophy with the vineyards Equalitas and BRCGS- certified and declared organic three years ago. “You need great vineyard management by people with great passion like Franco who takes care of the vines,” says Marilisa when I recount our conversation, “His team comes every day, even on weekends, to keep an eye on the vineyards. You have to consider if you go organic you will in some years lose some of the production. You have to accept this, and give into nature.” The midday sun is now mellowing and the gentle breeze from the nearby sea cools the summer air. I ask Marilisa what she is thinking. “It took a while, but Poggio al Tesoro is now one of the largest companies in the Bolgheri appellation and is recognized as one of the most innovative. It is thanks to the dedication of our team, Franco and Christian Coco (the winemaker), who understand my key phrase: never compromise with quality. I don’t wish to make a lot of wine. I want to make great wine. This is what excites me. When Walter and I came to Bolgheri it wasn’t to do an investment, but to make great wine in a beautiful area. And I’m very pleased.”

Left, agronomist Franco Dal Colle’s passion for farming and respect for land evokes the spirit of Poggio al Tesoro. Above, roads leading up to the vineyards


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With the release of the 2017 La Poja, we speak with Marilisa Allegrini, CEO of the Valpolicella winery, to discuss the estate’s focus on cru and vineyard-designed wines as exemplified by the prized vintage


llegrini is famed for its elegant Amarone and terroir-focused IGT wines. The estate farms more than 120 hectares across Valpolicella Classico in the northeast of Italy, with all the wines estate grown. The main vineyards range in altitude – from 180 to over 500 meters above sea level – and from these prime plots, Allegrini bottles powerful and structured expressions of the native grapes of Valpolicella. As the current CEO and sixth-generation proprietor of the estate, Marilisa Allegrini continues her father Giovanni’s quest to create the highest-quality cru wines in Valpolicella. This means, when it comes to winemaking, even though Valpolicella is often seen as having “technique over terroir,” Allegrini continues to go against the concept with a clear focus on cru and vineyard-designate wines, brought to life with clean and polished vinification. The estate’s plots certainly benefit from a favorable climate, with temperatures kept cool thanks to nearby Lake Garda and its location at the foothills of the Lessini mountains. Meanwhile, at these higher altitudes, the soils turn from clay to calcareous, as ancient seabeds have been revealed by millennia of erosion, which helps with winegrowing. One of Giovanni Allegrini’s most inspired visions, his passion project, was a monovarietal, vineyard-appellated Corvina wine made without undergoing the appassimento process. He wanted to prove Valpolicella’s potential to make great wines of terroir. Planted in 1979 at the top of the cru of La Grola in the subzone of Sant’Ambrogio, a “cru within a cru,” the La Poja vineyard is a diamond-shaped, 2.65ha plateau with chalky soils, planted entirely to the region’s noble grape, Corvina. 66

When the first La Poja vintage was released in 1983, it was the only commercially released 100 percent Corvina wine. Still today, it’s rare to find a varietal Corvina that hasn’t undergone the appassimento process. La Poja is the highest expression of Allegrini’s “cru” wines. With Maze Row’s release of the 2017 La Poja, we asked Marilisa Allegrini what makes this vintage so special. Italy experienced extreme weather conditions that year. How did this impact on La Poja? 2017 was an extreme vintage all over Italy. This meant production was down by 40 percent – probably the least productive vintage in the last 70 years. In Valpolicella, the summer was hot but there was some rain in July and August which rebalanced the juice in the fruit. How does La Poja prove that Valpolicella quality is truly connected to plot and terroir? La Poja is the triangle that sits at the top of La Grola hill at 350 meters, with mountains to the north and Late Grada to the west. The vineyard therefore enjoys a beautiful microclimate and benefits from excellent ventilation. The grapes ripen a little later than normal here. So, 2017 came to be a small vintage but an excellent quality, very elegant La Poja. How did you know La Poja wine was ready to be sold globally as an offer on La Place de Bordeaux? We knew the very first year we produced the wine. We planted the vineyard in 1979 and let the vines develop roots, but by 1983 we could already see the great quality. My brothers said: let’s vinify the grapes from La Poja by

themselves and not mix with the rest of the vineyard which is La Grola. With the evolutions in the vinification and aging process, we decided to keep the production of La Poja separate from the rest of our wines. Your father was ahead of his time in defining excellence as from the vineyards. Many other producers have since joined in this understanding and are elaborating site-specific wines. What does the future hold in terms of advancing the quality and the presence on the world-stage of wines from specific sites, such as La Poja? You know viticulture is the key thing. The wine is produced in the vineyard. This is where the hard work happens. We are more and more experiencing extreme vintages. Every year is a surprise. Vintage 2023, for instance, is another extreme and surprising vintage not only in Valpolicella but also Bolgheri [where Marilisa runs a second winery, Poggio al Tesoro, see “Coastal dreams” p58]. We had a very rainy spring, and when you have this amount of rain, fungus develops in the grape. We then had extreme heat, 15 days of very high temperatures in July, and in August the temperature was beautiful with cool evenings. You have to do your best in managing the vineyards. But when you taste the wine in the glass, you can feel what happened to that vintage in the vineyard. Wine is a combination of land, nature, work and man.

CEO and sixth-generation proprietor of Allegrini, Marilisa Allegrini, holding a bottle of the prized 2017 La Poja

“2017 came to be a small vintage but an excellent quality, very elegant La Poja” Marilisa Allegrini



2017 VINTAGE NOTES Unlike in other areas of Italy, the 2017 vintage in Sant’Ambrogio developed as typically expected. The location of the La Poja vineyard allowed it to avoid frost and hailstorms that plagued surrounding areas. The dry and breezy climate with wide variations in day-to-night temperatures enabled the grapes to fully express their varietal aromas. Harvest concluded in early October.


100 percent Corvina (no appassimento)


2.65ha, Sant’Ambrogio, Valpolicella Classico


330 meters


Chalky clay (chalk content 78.5 percent)


Bilateral guyot


43 years


Organically farmed (not certified), dry farmed, manual harvest


Spontaneous in stainless steel


20 months in new Allier barrels, 8 months in large Slavonian cask, 10 months in bottle


Filtered, fined




14.73 percent


5.85 g/L & 3.51


13,500 bottles 69


Do unusual venues and experimental curations set culture free to be explored in new and exciting ways, and by a wider public? Nargess Banks investigates


lla del Rei is a tiny spot of land off the Balearic island of Menorca in Spain. A former base for an abandoned military hospital built in the 18th century by the British, and with remains of a Paleo-Christian basilica, it’s been home to an enchanting art space since 2021. Hauser & Wirth Menorca is a bit of a hybrid. It comprises an art gallery with a workshop for local school kids. The sculpture park is landscaped by the leading figure of the “new perennial” movement Piet Oudolf. The cantina serves seasonal food and locally produced wines. And there’s access to a small beach to cool off in the hot summer months. To get there, you hop on a dedicated yellow catamaran from Mahón harbor, and it’s recommended to time the return trip to coincide with the island’s gorgeous sunsets. Hauser & Wirth Menorca offers a highly visceral art experience. The Swiss gallery has another such outpost on the rolling hills of Somerset in England. Housed on the site of an old farm, the farmhouse acts as a gallery, gift shop and an open-kitchen restaurant, while the outbuildings are home to resident artists. The surroundings are landscaped by Oudolf with a former Serpentine Pavilion by the Chilean architect Smiljan Radić, hosting events, supper clubs and, in the summer, open-air yoga. Meanwhile, in burgeoning downtown Los Angeles in a former mill, Hauser & Wirth’s LA gallery sits similarly at the intersection of art, architecture, education and entertainment. These spaces are part of a broader movement within the art world, one that is taking visual art out of the traditional “white cube” gallery space as a way of inviting viewers to experience art differently. Or, as the British sculptor Antony Gormley noted a little while ago on the BBC program Desert Island Discs, it’s important to liberate art from the straitjacket of both the museum and the gallery space. There are countless other concepts exploring alternative ways to show art, most successfully thriving global art fairs Frieze, Art Basel and the Venice Biennale, as well as more local events such as the latest BAD+ Art Fair (Bordeaux + Art + Design) – inaugurated in 2022 as the first international fair in the wine-growing region. Meanwhile, during the pandemic, the technology for enabling digital showrooms and virtual auctions matured to a point where physical and digital now run seamlessly. NFTs have further expanded our vision of art and ownership. These multi-vehicles help expose artists to wider audiences and are also excellent storytelling tools and make complete commercial sense for the artist and gallerist.


Photography ©Be Creative, Daniel Schäfer, Hauser & Wirth

Previous page, Hauser & Wirth Menorca on Illa del Rei. Left, views from the Hauser & Wirth Menorca gallery, installation view of Hans Josephsohn's Untitled (1981). Right, installation view of Paul McCarthy's White Snow Party (2014) - all courtesy of Hauser & Wirth Menorca


CURIOUS MINDS Exciting and challenging environments will naturally inspire exhibiting artists. In 2022, tasked to create a show for Hauser & Wirth Menorca, New York-based artist Rashid Johnson’s “Sodade” became a powerful response to location and the concept of islanders on land with its fair share of movement and migration. Having visited “Sodade,” it’s hard to imagine it having such a visceral impact if shown in a standard urban gallery. Neil Wenman, Hauser & Wirth partner and global creative director, agrees that an unusual location can impact both the artist and curator’s creative process. “Another benefit is that visitors have mostly traveled here specifically, so they will spend more time and focus on the art,” he says. “It has helped us think about the gallery’s role in educating and inclusivity. Last year we had our millionth visitor to Somerset. It is a whole new audience.” Inspiration need not be confined to the artist alone. What if a great space and its conceptual offering got the architect, interior designers, and even the chef and sommelier’s creativity pulsing? This summer Ladbroke Hall opened its doors with the promise of being a community hub for its west London neighborhoods of Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove. The flagship for Carpenters Workshop Gallery, the 1903 Grade II-listed former home to the Sunbeam Talbot Motor Company is a vast 43,000 square foot 74

space uniting art and design, food and wine, live music, dance and theater. Ladbroke Hall restaurant’s interior is by Italian artist and designer Vincenzo De Cotiis, the garden landscaped by Chelsea Flower Show winner Luciano Giubbilei, and Gambero Rosso’s 2020 “Chef of the Year” winner, Emanuele Pollini, is at its helm. Beverage director Romain Audrerie feels his wine program needs to reflect the venue’s core values to be accessible and sustainable, but also unique. “We want the wine culture to echo the diversity found in contemporary art, and the wine list to promote eclecticism with labels from lesser-known appellations from the Loire valley or from the minerally-driven Etna volcano in Sicily,” he says. Meanwhile, the building’s heritage site has informed a selection of bottles from more traditional appellations such as Barolo and Burgundy, while also featuring rare vintages from exclusive allocations. “There is an appetite to look for more experiential spaces,” says Loïc Le Gaillard, who co-founded Carpenters Workshop with Julien Lombrail in 2006. Through their galleries in London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles, the duo has been instrumental in elevating collectible design and blurring the line between art and design. Ladbroke Hall hopes to break similar ground by offering a space that helps us explore culture in more exciting and unusual ways. Le Gaillard explains, “We want to have a place where we welcome our artists and designers on a non-transactional basis. We want to

engage with this beautiful community who have been entrusting us for the past 20 years, over a glass of wine, some pasta, a little theater, rather than the usual commercial setting that can make it extremely boring.” Notting Hill has a vibrant artistic and musical heritage and a deep sense of pride. A community program is therefore central to Ladbroke Hall’s vision, involving collaborating with local creatives, youth initiatives, and education and mentoring opportunities in art, design, music and dining. Le Gaillard says: “We want to work with the community to ensure we’re not an isolated privileged hub. This is our own little utopian fantasy.” TREADING A FINE LINE Not all in the art world are beaming with excitement, though. There is a valid concern that focusing too much on experience runs the risk of turning art into mere entertainment and the gallery into an amusement park. Then again, as inclusive shows such as “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” have demonstrated, viewing art in these easily digestible, immersive and Instagramble environments will tease the selfie brigade, but they may also be transformative for some and ignite a passion for art. And that in itself is not a bad thing. Wenman believes it all depends on the exhibition. “Some are more academic and require much more curatorial expertise than others. Then these new approaches or environments

can open up the possibility of engaging with the arts, giving a sense of how art can reflect on different core subject matters, whether sustainability or the human condition.” Sometimes the journey itself can be instrumental to the experience. “Henry Moore: Sharing Form,” at Hauser & Wirth Somerset last year, focused on the profound impact of Stonehenge on the great British artist. The drive from London went past these otherworldly prehistoric monuments with the experience further enlivening Moore’s sculptures. “There is room for play, and we should be able to create a space for this,” suggests Wenman. “You can have an underlying conception and communicate big ideas through play and irreverence. It is about experiencing art differently, ways in which we hope to open up the audience to relax and then walk away with a different perspective.”

Opposite, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles. This page from top left, Franz West's Etude de Couleur (1991), David Zink Yi's Neusilber (2018), and Piet Oudolf’s garden with the Serpentine Pavilion by Smiljan Radić (2014), at Hauser & Wirth Somerset Photography ©Elon Schoenholz, Archiv Franz West, Estate Franz West, David Zink Yi. All photography, courtesy of the artists and Hauser & Wirth


“There is room for play, and we should be able to create a space for this” Neil Wenman, Hauser & Wirth partner and global creative director


The restaurant at Ladbroke Hall in London, designed by Vincenzo De Cotiis featuring a chandelier by Nacho Carbonell and sitespecific artwork by Christopher Le Brun

Photography ©Mark Cocksedge



From precision viticulture to optimized communications, artificial intelligence is set to revolutionize the winemaking world, writes Richard Hough

“As with any emerging technology, the wine sector must be open, informed and ready to face the challenges and seize the opportunities that AI will inevitably bring”


rtificial intelligence, or what is now commonly known as AI, is everywhere. In fact, it’s difficult to pick up a newspaper, tune into a podcast or scroll social media without encountering yet another apocalyptical prophecy about the catastrophic impact artificial intelligence will have on our lives. AI will be the biggest wealth creator in history. AI represents the greatest threat to truth the world has ever known. AI will secure the military dominance of airspace. AI will replace surgeons and doctors in the delivery of medical care. These are just some of the bold predictions relating to AI that trend routinely on our newsfeeds. But what is the AI revolution and what does it mean in practical terms for the wine sector? Wine, of course, has been around for some time and has seen more than its fair share of revolutions. From the agricultural revolution and the early attempts at domestication to the industrial revolution, which transformed how wine was produced and transported, to the information revolution and the radical changes wrought by computer technology since the mid-1980s. Even the French Revolution, according to some historians, created the preconditions necessary for the modern French wine industry to flourish. Now, thanks to AI, it seems we must brace ourselves for yet another seismic shift in the way we live, work and drink. In fact, the term AI was first coined way back in 1955 by the eminent Stanford University computer scientist John McCarthy, referring simply to the simulation of human intelligence by machines. But what does that mean in practice? 80

AI can process huge amounts of data and make predictions much faster and more accurately than humanly possible. AI is already central to many of today’s largest and most innovative organizations, including the likes of Amazon and Tesla. AI can automate tasks currently done by humans, such as customer service transactions, lead generation, fraud detection and quality control and, in an increasing number of areas, AI massively outperforms human counterparts. But can a machine really make wine? And what about small family-run wineries, what does AI mean for them? THE AI DILEMMA Many have argued that AI is not suited to any task that involves creativity, and winemaking surely falls into that category. Indeed, this is one of the main grievances in the current writers’ strike in Hollywood, in which the influential Writers Guild of America is seeking a guarantee that AI applications such as ChatGPT will be used only as a research tool and not as an alternative to human writers. Like writing movie scripts, making wine is clearly a creative process that will always require human input, but that doesn’t mean that the wine sector should reject AI altogether. Far from it. As with any emerging technology, the sector must be open, informed and ready to face the challenges and seize the opportunities that AI will inevitably bring. Areas of viticulture where AI might be particularly effective include warehouse automation, personalization (of content, messaging, ads, recommendations and websites) and customer service (virtual agents can provide a 24/7 service). AI is also likely to become increasingly influential in the area of communications, a topic explored in some detail by Robert Joseph at last year’s wine2wine Business

Forum in Verona, and, more specifically, in relation to content creation. Idea generation (based on your audience’s interests), writing assistants that produce instant copy, text optimization for SEO and virtual influencers are just some of the areas where AI is likely to take on an ever-increasing role. But what about in the vineyard itself? Precision viticulture (PV), the use of drones to analyze vine performance and health, and robots and tractors operating independently are all made possible thanks to AI technology. In the context of climate change, rising temperatures and water scarcity, soil saturation technology can inform vine growers when and where to activate irrigation systems. AI also has the added benefit of being able to capture detailed data about vine health and development while performing mundane tasks such as weed control, pruning and soil analysis. It is in this ability to gather, analyze and independently act upon large volumes of information and data that the real benefits of AI must be harnessed. VINEYARD BOTS Cornell University is leading the way when it comes to deploying robots in our vineyards, with the rollout of its PhytoPatholoBots (PPB) as part of a four-year research project funded by the US Department of Agriculture. The machines, equipped with facial recognition-type software, can identify disease-infected leaves or canopy regions in a vineyard. The technology can also measure the extent of any infection and determine where and how much treatment should be applied, allowing farmers to target the use of potentially harmful chemicals. But, if you’re expecting some kind of stylized robot from the movies, you may be disappointed by the glorified lawnmower currently trawling selected vineyards in the US.

Mechanization and robotics are clearly going to be of most interest to producers operating at scale. Such bots might be viable in the vast vineyards of California’s Central Valley, but may feel less at home in the heroic viticulture of Valtellina in Italy, where the human touch will always prevail. Furthermore, as with any emerging technology, AI is expensive (the robotic unit described above costs between $30,000 and $35,000), requires significant technical expertise and, most critically of all, can eliminate human jobs, increasing unemployment rates in already fragile agricultural economies. On the other hand, with labor shortages and climate change becoming increasingly acute, AI may offer at least a partial solution to some of the most pressing problems currently facing the industry. The Turing Test, originally known as “the imitation game,” was developed by Alan Turing in 1950 to test a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Will a bottle of wine made by a machine ever pass the Turing Test? That seems unlikely. One thing, however, is certain: the AI revolution is upon us, whether we like it or not. A final thought on the implications of AI on those of us who write for a living. During an editorial meeting my editor suggested running the title of this article through ChatGPT – the artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI. The speed with which the application produced a comprehensive and well-structured article on the impact of AI on viticulture, a task that I’d spent the best part of a day researching, was jaw-dropping. But then again, who’d ever want to read an article about wine written by a robot?

Illustration Simon Ward



How is the US fine dining scene adapting to new tastes? Virginia Miller finds out what are the essential ingredients needed to cook up unforgettable dining experiences from San Francisco to New Orleans


he pandemic threatened to quell fine dining. When Danish chef René Redzepi announced the 2024 closure of one of the world’s most famous restaurants, Noma, and talked of fine dining’s infeasibility, the trajectory seemed confirmed. Yet in American cities like San Francisco, tasting menu restaurants, often casual, continue to open at a steady clip, with newcomers like Nisei, Noodle in a Haystack, Osito and Aphotic garnering Michelin stars within a year, even months, of opening. In the US, upscale restaurants globally continue to draw accolades like Michelin and The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, while Michelin expands across the country. Demand for special occasion, inspired restaurants is alive and well – but how is the American fine dining scene adapting to new sensibilities and trends? Quality ingredients, ethics and storytelling all appear crucial in many of the most acclaimed spots, including San Francisco’s aforementioned Aphotic, a unique seafood-only restaurant that only opened in March 2023 but has already gained a Michelin star and a Michelin Green Star. As a world leader environmentally for decades, California pioneers in restaurant ecosustainability too. Out of 359 Green Star restaurants worldwide, there are 17 in the US, with 15 in California. The Green Star, admits Aphotic chef Peter Hemsley, is groundbreaking for a seafood restaurant. “We source directly from fishermen by meeting them at the dock, their aquaculture farm, or they send directly to us. It’s a pretty basic thing, to know where your product comes from, but in the fish industry, particularly in the US, provenance of fish has been a gray zone for so long. I hope that changes.”

BAY WATCH From sparking farm-to-table back in the 1970s to pioneering meatless and fishless meats and fish today, San Francisco remains on the cutting edge of fine dining, with the second most Michelin-starred restaurants in the US between New York and Chicago (though San Francisco is one-tenth and one-fifth the size of those cities respectively.) While San Francisco’s upscale legends of past decades remain, a few dozen tasting menu restaurants open annually, many quickly garnering national acclaim. Garnering a Michelin star just over a year after opening, the city’s Noodle in a Haystack is a ten-seat counter that feels somewhat like eating in husband-and-wife Clint and Yoko Tan’s home. A sign of how fine dining is changing, the Japanese duo are self-taught chefs who came from finance, and who honed their passion for Japanese cooking, ramen and pastry to shockingly perfected levels. A few neighborhoods over, chef Ryan Shelton brilliantly weaves together a painstakingly detailed new menu, plating and decor every few months in the eight-seat Merchant Roots, his wine shop. His themes run from Californian trees and the novel Vanity Fair, for its exploration of class differences and decadence, to a mermaid feast featuring only ingredients found on the seashore and in the sea. Each of Shelton’s menus are whimsical, thoughtful and unlike anything else going on in the nation. Another recent San Francisco stunner is Osito, which earned a Michelin in less than a year. It’s 100 percent live fire cooking in full view of a single, long table of diners. Formerly homeless and a drug addict, chef Seth Stowaway impressively turned his life around in restaurants, making bold and daring choices

Previous page, a dish of rockfish crudo at Aphotic. This page from top, Aphotic chef Peter Hemsley, risotto, prawns and caviar and Black Sea old fashioned cocktail, and the house distillates

on the plate, serving the likes of guinea hen multiple ways (including raw), or imaginative animal parts, such as beef tendon gelatin over trachea, plums, melon, guajillo peppers, peanuts and jam in a beef cheek pho broth. NORTHERN STARS In Chicago, Michelin-starred restaurants like El Ideas and Parachute have held sway with that California-casual kind of tasting menu, alongside the city’s fancier fine dining greats. Chef Phillip Foss lives above his BYOB, dinner party-esque El Ideas, which he opened in 2011. It serves fast food-inspired fine dining – think salty-sweet French fries and ice cream, or a Twix Bar-inspired, chocolate-dipped chicken liver-topped crouton. Opened in 2014 in a relaxed space, wife-and-husband Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark’s Parachute showcases traditional Korean cuisine with fresh techniques, a sleek sound system and Korean drinks. While New York City has been a fine dining bastion for decades, rare is a restaurant like Junghyun and Ellia Park’s two Michelin-starred Atomix, which quickly rose to #8 in the world on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023, receiving their coveted Art of Hospitality award in 2022. High-touch service at an intimate chef’s counter, artful menus and creative food inspired by their native Korea combine in a vibrant way that equals delicious art. SPELLBINDING STORIES A key element at Atomix is storytelling. “Compared to other art forms, such as painting or music, a meal is, by design, ephemeral. But it’s hard to retain the food memories that we’d like to keep with us,” Ellia Park explains. “We honed in on the storytelling aspect and tied in the importance of ingredients, history, culture, even our personal stories, through menu cards.” Their menu cards have showcased everything from Korean painters to typographic art. “The menu cards, aside from being aesthetically considered and designed, are meant to be useful for all kinds of diners,” says Ellia. “Someone may want to remember the name of a 84

specific herb they never tasted before. Another may want to remember the inspiration or story behind a dish. Others may want to know the origin of a certain produce. Personally, I love to hear about the process of a dish coming to life, so we also tried to input storytelling aspects to each dish. It also serves as a way for us to collaborate with admired creatives.” Meanwhile Hemsley notes that “storytelling has become a big deal for me personally because I have developed so many tight relationships over the last couple of years.” The Aphotic head chef continues, “Our partners are fishermen, operators of aquaculture farms, land farmers, distillers, winemakers and diverse artisans in design and craft. In all of this, the fishermen take the cake in terms of incredible life stories. I have started to tell many of these stories on our blog.” HIDDEN GEMS While you don’t find close to the volume of fine dining restaurants in smaller American cities as you do in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Chicago, the couple you might find often showcase casual quirk or regional history. New Orleans’ unique Mosquito Supper Club is a James Beard Award-winning treasure from chef Melissa Martin in a historic old home, showcasing – as does her lauded cookbook – coastal, sustainably sourced Louisiana seafood, historic Cajun dishes and traditions. Though at times uneven, tasting menus at Nola’s chill but ambitious Lengua Madre are a rarity in the South for modern, forward-thinking Mexican food from another creative female chef, Ana Castro. In central US cities like Oklahoma City, you will find only a couple tasting menu restaurants attempting what is happening by the dozens in larger cities. The lauded, 22-seat Nonesuch (Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant in America 2022) and James Beard-winning chef Andrew Black at Grey Sweater are not leading sustainability or radically innovative dishes the way some of the aforementioned restaurants are, but they’re pushing the region forward like never before, while chef Black is a champion for Black chefs in fine dining.

TRULY UNIQUE “Fine dining restaurants take many years, from idea to execution; an endless amount of dedication and labor,” says Atomix’s chef Junghyun Park. “Fine dining has a special place in our culture at large. It’s not simply an exacting, demanding form of labor or skill, not merely a symbol of ‘fanciness’ or status. It’s an artful expression of a philosophy of cuisine and culture with the power to change a city, even a country.” “Without the growth of fine dining, the culinary world – and culture at large – would suffer a great loss,” Park continues. “From Noma and Nordic cuisine, to Central restaurant and Peru – we’ve seen how a fine dining establishment can change a country’s tourism, its economy, its identity. These restaurants are famed for their storytelling approach. The unique end-to-end experience they provide is an example of how a dining experience can explore a whole culture.” Aphotic’s chef Hemsley agrees a unique personality is key in “a shrinking field with increasingly competitive players and wildly creative food.” He explains: “Classically, fine dining is embodied in restaurants that provide the highest level of excellence in gastronomy, beverage curation, service and decor; for me, all these categories are the baseline for participation. Guests are now looking for a sense of personality and originality when approaching a fine dining space.” “Today, fine dining is about creating a memorable experience, one that results in an exchange of personal memories and stories,” chef Junghyun concludes. “If the previous generation of fine dining was like a glamorous Hollywood movie, a beautiful performance, we think today’s fine dining is more like an experimental film or a documentary, in how it shares and shapes personal experience.”

Photography ©Aphotic Bread&Butter, Kelly Puleio


“If the previous generation of fine dining was like a glamorous Hollywood movie, today’s fine dining is more like an experimental film or a documentary, in how it shares and shapes personal experience” Junghyun Park


Two Michelin-starred Atomix is led by husband-and-wife team chef Junghyun Park and manager Ellia Park. They quickly rose to #8 in the world on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023, receiving their coveted Art of Hospitality award in 2022

Photography ©Peter Ash, Evan Sung, Atomix


WASTE NOT From reimagining old defunct wooden casks as stylish furniture to reusing grape residue to make grappa, a group of winemakers are rethinking the concept of waste, writes Jonathan Bell


very agricultural process generates waste, and winemaking is no different. Most winemakers agree that a typical 750ml bottle of wine contains somewhere between 600 to 800 grapes, or just over a kilogram of the fruit per bottle. After processing, around 80 percent of this weight goes into the wine itself, leaving behind the skin, seeds and stems, a mulched by-product called pomace, or occasionally grape marc. This term also applies to the waste created in the olive oil and cider making processes (“pomace” comes from the Latin for apple, pomum). In 2022, global wine production amounted to about 258 million hectoliters (100,000 liters), or 34.4 billion bottles. That’s a lot of pomace, so finding suitable uses for the waste material has always been part of winemaking. One straightforward use is as animal feed or fertilizer, returning organic material back to the soil in as a direct a way as possible. However, depending on the process, pomace can be rich in all sorts of minerals and sugars; white wine pomace contains more sugar and nitrogen (good for fertilizer), while red wine pomace has fermented, creating a different chemical make-up. Traditionally, pomace can also be put to use as the primary ingredient in another, stronger, alcoholic drink, pomace brandy. Perhaps the best-known of which is grappa in Italy, but there’s also the marc spirits found in the various French wine-growing regions, as well as piquette, which is a watered-down marc, and drinks like orujo in Spain and raki in Turkey. Another application for the grape marc is in the creation of bioethanol; one tonne of marc can be converted to 400 liters. Bioethanol


created from wineries has been used to power buses in Bordeaux and as fuel for heating in Trento, pointing the way to a future of true material and energy circularity. The benefits of using wine waste for feed, fertilizer and energy production are both obvious and economically efficient. However, there are other uses, albeit niche ones, which can have a higher consumer profile and help raise awareness of all kinds of post-industrial uses. This is the raison d’être behind the Vegea Company, founded in Milan in 2016. Acting as a go-between for agricultural industries like winemaking and the design industry, the organization has developed a number of plant-based alternatives to their oil-derived equivalents. The most prominent of these is synthetic grape leather, also called Vegea. Described as a “vegan coated fabric,” with a name that hints at Gaia, the Greek goddess of Earth, the fabric is designed to replicate the qualities, texture, flexibility and durability of traditional leather. Like leather, it can be dyed in any number of bespoke colors, making it an ideal material for both the fashion and auto industries. The latter is undergoing some high-profile soul searching when it comes to material sourcing, reasoning that the new zero-emission electric powertrains must be accompanied by a greater commitment to decarbonizing the entire supply chain. As ever, innovation starts at the top of the market, where there’s a budget and taste for materials to be crafted and manipulated to express their very best side. In 2019, Bentley unveiled the EXP 100 GT Concept, a celebration of a century of car-making that imagined how the Bentley of 2035 might look. Alongside ethically sourced timber

and thousand-year-old reclaimed riverwood, the company’s interior team explored the use of Vegea as a replacement for the traditional hides. Volvo’s “Conscious Design” strategy, which includes its vegan Nordico leather alternative, cites the use of corks recycled from the wine industry as a possible source of premium textiles. Trainers are far removed from the well upholstered interior of a luxury car, but French entrepreneur Laure Babin set up Zèta in Bordeaux in 2020 to make vegan shoes using corn, coffee and grape waste. Describing the company’s ethos as one of total transparency, Babin says that Zèta is honest about everything, from sourcing and manufacturing, through to the justification for price rises. “Our point of difference revolves around the reuse of existing materials,” she says, with modestly priced, retro-styled shoes giving no hint of their origin beyond the company’s transparent communications. Another company that’s more than happy to talk about origins is Californian maker WellVine. Pursuing a “Vine to Bar” ethos, WellVine’s principle product is premium dark chocolate, made from Chardonnay marc. Describing it as an “alcohol-free superfood,” it’s part of a range of goods that display the company’s zero-waste mindset. There is still so much more that can be done. For example, wooden wine barrels tend to be recycled into rather kitsch, quasi-rustic furniture that makes a dubious virtue out of its origins, rather than exploring contemporary forms and techniques. Given that the flavor imparted from oak tends to dissipate after about three years, there is a ready source of material (although these barrels are still viable for storage and can

From top, Zèta makes vegan shoes using corn, coffee and grape waste, Bentley EXP 100 GT suggests the use of Vegea as a replacement for the traditional hides, and Brancaia produces its own grappa from wine waste

subsequently be used to impart the wine flavor into other spirits). Metal and concrete vats have a much longer, practically unlimited shelf life. Given that a typical mature oak tree contains enough wood for around two to four barrels, the demand on this resource is enormous, despite it being “renewable.” One European vineyard that has taken this aspect of recycling to another level is Brancaia in Tuscany, the organic vineyard overseen by a family team led by Barbara Widmer. Twenty years ago, as part of the winery’s ongoing process of creating a truly sustainable business, the family experimented with transforming the traditional barrique into all kinds of furniture to use around the estate. “We recycle it for everything possible,” says Widmer, “including tables and bar stools, wine bar trim, lamps, flower pot serving ring, room dividers, candle holders, etc. We’re also using the wood for our wine cases.” All this on top of using the marc for a much sought-after grappa. Physical re-use of skins, stems, and wood is all very well, but accounts for only a fraction of the ways in which the industry can minimize its footprint. For centuries, pomace and other waste, like lees, the dead yeast sediment that accrues in the bottom of barrels, have been plowed back into the process, either literally as fertilizer or as catalysts for other related processes, such as creating grappa or ripasso, or food flavorings, colorings and preservatives. As organic chemistry becomes ever more sophisticated, new uses are being discovered that maximize the unique chemical properties of this so-called waste. Few industries can claim such a potent and rich waste by-product.


As part of its ongoing process of creating a truly sustainable business, Brancaia transforms the traditional barriques into all kinds of furniture to use around the estate 90

“Few industries can claim such a potent and rich waste by-product. As organic chemistry becomes ever more sophisticated, new uses are being discovered that maximize the unique chemical properties of this so-called waste”

Photography ©Helen Cathcart, Brancaia, Bentley Motors, Zèta


With organic practices and principled winemaking, winemaker Barbara Widmer at Brancaia is crafting some of Tuscany’s boldest wines.

SAVE THE DATES From classic to unusual, Chasity Cooper handpicks six events across the US for a glimpse into America’s wine culture

NOVEMBER – CHATEAU ELAN VINEYARD FEST, GEORGIA Located about 45 minutes outside of Atlanta, the Chateau Elan Winery and Resort offers Georgians a taste of luxury, relaxation and award-winning wine. Going into its 27th year, the Vineyard Fest offers attendees the opportunity to taste their wines, as well as locally distilled whiskey, vodka, bourbon and craft beer. If you enjoy dressing in your Sunday best and taking in breathtaking views of Georgia’s rolling foothills, then this is the event for you.

FEBRUARY – BLACK VINES FESTIVAL, CALIFORNIA For the last 12 years, the Black Vines Festival in Berkeley has raised a glass to celebrate and honor Black joy, Black love, Black wineries, and diverse art. Founded by wine entrepreneur Fern A. Stroud, the event includes exclusive winemaker dinners, a grand tasting from multiple Black wineries and vintners, an art show, and concludes with a Black Joy Parade.


n the US, wine experiences are often equated to spending a day or two at lush vineyards and tasting rooms in places like Napa Valley, Sonoma County or Willamette Valley. But over the last 40 years, there have been a number of fairs and festivals established to celebrate American wines and regions that they hail from. Additionally, these events have grown to uplift the winemakers, sommeliers, content creators and executives who share their fervent passions with the world. As wine enthusiasts become more aware of what is in their glass, these events aren’t simply about gathering to taste dozens and dozens of wines. They’re multi-day, multilayered experiences that are centered around community and connectivity – complete with delicious food, live entertainment, and thoughtful masterclasses and panels led by world-renowned industry experts. To experience how the world of wine continues to penetrate American culture, here are six events to consider attending in the next few months. 94

©Kola Shobo



Celebrating 37 years this past July in McMinnville, just south Portland, the IPNC is for anyone who completely nerds out when it comes to Pinot Noir and its many guises, from sparkling wine, Champagne and rosé to still wines both young and old. This event is also a celebration of the people and places that make Oregon extraordinary. If you’re worried about what will coat your stomach in between the Grand Tasting, University of Pinot Courses and Al Fresco tastings, don’t fret. Some of Oregon’s finest chefs provide delectable dishes for the Grand Dinner, Vineyard Tour Lunch, Salmon Bake, and Sparkling Brunch.

Founded 2005 by a collective of community leaders who had the desire to uplift and celebrate the culinary scene in Charleston, the CWFF is where food and culture collide. From signature dinners and curated excursions to hands-on cooking classes and beverage workshops, attendees have the opportunity to choose their own unique experience. But no matter which route you take, this festival is undoubtedly a taste of true southern hospitality. ©CHSWF, Perry McLeod



This year marked the 40th anniversary of the famous Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado. A star-studded threeday affair offers attendees live cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, endless sips of wines and spirits, and engaging seminars that will take your love for food and wine to the next level.

JULY – WINE & CULTURE FEST, GEORGIA Since 2018, The Hue Society, founded by Tahiirah Habibi, has brought together professionals and oenophiles at every level to celebrate wine culture from a Black lens. With Atlanta as the backdrop, the festival has grown from a weekend to a week-long event complete with interactive demonstrations, blind-tasting competitions, master classes and wellness sessions. The festival concludes with the annual Roses and Rosé Awards Brunch, honoring Black and POC wine professionals who are trendsetters, influencers, educators and pioneers. ©Aspen food and wine

©The Hue Society 95


Few tourists visit the Spanish wine region, yet it makes for a unique holiday location, says Mike MacEacheran, who follows the Ebro Valley to find peace among the vineyards and wineries of historic La Rioja


ne of the many good things about being in northern Spain is the freedom to eat and drink what’s plentifully produced by the locals – it’s almost an obligation. The Atlantic coast of Bilbao and San Sebastian rewards with merry cafés and bars offering cocktail stick-stabbed snacks, like stuffed piquillo peppers, skewered anchovies and dry-cured jamón croquetas. Happily, there are plenty of drinks to partner with these morselsized pintxos. The beer is great, if not as traditional as the hard cider, which has been produced for centuries by Sagardotegia warehouses that fan out from Astigarraga. Better than all of that though, is the wine of the seemingly unstoppable La Rioja region – here more than 500 vineyards offer an education into locally blended grape varieties and you feel like you’ve arrived at the center of a whole atlas of wine. South of Bilbao, the wineries and bodegas are mostly scattered along the Ebro Valley, a 150km-wide area often called “the land of a thousand wines.” Winemaking is a labor of love here, as well as in the vineyard-laden high grounds in the shadow of the Cantabrian mountains, and there are three distinctive sub-regions, all of which can really only be conquered by car: upriver towards Haro in Rioja Alta, in the fields of Rioja Alavesa, or down to Calahorra in warmer, drier Rioja Oriental.

If traveling from the coast, start your trip near the area’s wine capital Haro, where a cluster of bodegas begin to tell the region’s viticulture story. To the west of the Ebro River, the Rioja Alta’s terroir is deep red, iron-rich clay and this proudly Spanish swathe produces wines with high acidity and cellars crammed with oak barrels. Close by is Logroño, La Rioja’s largest city and a place so lovely you’ll need to find plenty of excuses to leave it behind in the rearview. Even so, it’s onwards east into the Basque Country to Rioja Alavesa, motoring across the Ebro as a patchwork of bodegas and vineyards roll into view. Of the wineries here, the most interesting are tub-thumping advocates for Spanish wine’s potential, not only the welltold story of its classic reds. There are lavish restaurants and modern tasting rooms, with many clustered around Laguardia, a fortified hilltop town with eye candy turrets, roofs and honey-colored houses. A rookie error is to rush right through. You’re not yet done. Beyond the terrific town of Briones, you’re deep into Rioja Oriental, the new kid of La Rioja’s three sub-regions and where the talk is of little-known labels with a big future. There is time for more vineyards and barrel tastings. More time for cellars and wine caves. There will also be plenty of empty bottles and stacked pintxos plates and, perhaps, the lingering regret that you should have stayed longer.


A-12 AP-68 From top, Nublo’s Carabinero y lima quemada, cellars at Bodega Lanzaga, and Frank Gehry’s Hotel Marqués de Riscal

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WINERIES TO VISIT With designs on packing out every one of your days, densely planted La Rioja is constantly having to make space for new vineyard openings and the unfolding boundaries of heritage estates. There’s a lifetime of persuasive tasting adventures to be had in the area’s three sub-regions, and the only challenge is to map out an itinerary to do them justice. Here are some of our favorite places to stop and sample.

BODEGA LANZAGA Run by one of Spain’s greatest winemakers, Telmo Rodríguez, in the village of Lanciegos, this winery has revisited the past in order to unearth the wines of tomorrow. Rodríguez’s dream is to “make the best Rioja wine of the 18th-century,” with a terroir-focused approach that uses organically farmed old vines to create a field blend from estate vineyards. BODEGA ALEGRE VALGAÑÓN All set for rustic Rioja? The unsung leaders of the revival that puts viticulture tradition first, husband-and-wife team Oscar Alegre and Eva Valgañón insist on developing small-batch wines with earthy tones in their home village of Fonzaleche. Maybe pack a sweater: it’s the highest vineyard in the region. ARTUKE Founded by brothers Arturo and Kike (hence the familial portmanteau), this 26-hectare plot in Baños de Ebro is primped and preened with glorious Tempranillo vines. Their success story is partly thanks to the winery’s association with Rioja’n’Roll, a gung-ho group of bright young winemakers not afraid to challenge the status quo. OLIVIER RIVIÈRE VINOS There’s a school of thought in La Rioja these days that if Telmo Rodríguez is involved then it’s probably a good idea to pay attention. It was Rodríguez who first lured owner Olivier Rivière from outside Perpignan to the region and his ambitious project builds on a Burgundy-style heritage. French-oak aged Gabaxo is the extraordinary result. SIERRA DE TOLOÑO La Rioja-native Sandra Bravo might work with some of the highest altitude vineyards in the region, but her old vine Tempranillo blends reach even loftier plains. Factor in her resume as a former “Young Winemaker of the Year,” as well as vineyard mountain views as intense as her wine, and it’s small wonder everyone gets giddy about the place. 98

Left, Bodega Lanzaga winery and vineyards in Lanciego. This page, Artuke vineyards in Baños de Ebro


PLACES TO STAY As much as La Rioja is about the vineyards, no visit is worth the wine alone without an overnight stay at some of Spain’s most sublime boutique hotels. The right places also specialize in guided tours and concierge recommendations, meaning the hard work is already done for you.

HOTEL VIURA A contemporary bolthole with secret escape tunnels, in a sea of vineyards with wine tours, wine tastings and onsite wellness. Located in a tiny village with 43 doorstep wineries, this Villabuena de Álava hotel ticks all the boxes and is an absolute delight. HOTEL MARQUÉS DE RISCAL Here’s an idea: how about a titanium-ribboned design hotel with the fingerprints of architect Frank Gehry all over it, and a winery set against a backdrop of some of the biggest-name bodegas. Plug the town of Eltziego into your sat nav and you’re all set for La Rioja’s most memorable hotel. HOTEL PALACIO TONDÓN North of Haro, this swaggering 16th-century palace is a gateway to a life-affirming viticulture journey, with a restaurant terrace overlooking the Ebro, wine cellar and wine bar to wallow in. For a different sort of awakening, the Camino de Santiago trundles right by the front door. PALACIO DE SAMANIEGO There are only nine rooms here and, while others promote modernity, this listed historical monument remains a tribute to the age-old stone, wood and ochre soil of the region. With no reception, it almost feels like a wine connoisseur’s private home. FINCA DE LOS ARANDINOS We all fantasize about a Xanadu-like winery, hotel, restaurant and spa combo, which is why this sleek, minimalist boutique is such a find. It’s all about relaxation, albeit wrapped up in sharp lines, glass and concrete that flick off La Rioja’s traditionally rustic aesthetic.

Frank Gehry’s Hotel Marqués de Riscal is Rioja’s most starry hotel and wine destination


Finca de los Arandinos is a sleek, minimalist boutique hotel that's a contrast to La Rioja’s traditionally rustic aesthetic 101

WHERE TO EAT Eating well in Spain is a human right and it’s appropriate that sublime food and drink are combined at the region’s best hotels and destination wineries. Expect restaurants with their roots in the soil, plus hyperlocal ingredients and starry-eyed chefs that seem to have been born in the kitchen. Oh, and did we mention how good the wine is?

EL PORTAL DE ECHAURREN Superlative alert: the first restaurant in La Rioja to be awarded a Michelin star – and now a second – this creative concept in the swoon-worthy Hotel Echaurren in Ezcaray is for cooking with fanfare; the offal-inspired menu includes dishes like tartar and squid toffee and sweetbread tempura ravioli. IKARO Logroño has three Michelin-worthy tables: Kiro Sushi (Japanese), Ajonegro (Mexican meets Spanish) and this tour de force from a Basque-Ecuadorian couple. That translates into plates marrying the prawn buns and fritadas of the Amazon with the chorizos and gazpachos of the Spanish hinterland. EGUREN UGARTE To the town of Laguardia for this destination winery and restaurant towering, literally, over 130-hectares of vines. History runs deep, as it’s one of Europe’s oldest family-run vineyards, while onsite Restaurante Martín Cendoya offers traditional Riojan staples. The highlight? A drinking well’s choice of more than 30 locally blended tipples. VENTA MONCALVILLO From blacksmith’s workshop to restaurant kitchen: that’s the unlikely backstory of chef Ignacio Echapresto, who now dazzles in the village of Daroca de Rioja with biodynamic menus based on roots, leaves, flowers and fruit. Keeping things in the family, brother Carlos is in charge of the cellar – keep on their good side and order the wine pairing. NUBLO The town of Haro keeps some pretty sweet secrets: it’s home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of century-old wine cellars. Another is this fine-dining affair, which keeps a space in what was once a palatial medieval home. The reason you’re really here though, is for the wood-fired cuisine. 102

Left, Ikaro Rioja’s marriage — anchovies and green pepper tartelette. This page, the cocina at Nublo and a dish of Bonito al sarmiento y pimiento verde


THINGS TO DO, PLACES TO DISCOVER What’s there to know about Rioja apart from its wine? Plenty, really. Top-notch sights abound and whether you seek a bit of history, hiking, art or road tripping while chasing the Spanish sun, there’s guaranteed to be something here for you.

VIVANCO MUSEUM OF WINE CULTURE This vast museum in the historic town of Briones has its own grapevine garden tangled with around 220 varieties. Come for the immersive archive of the region’s wine history, stay for the cherry-picked art collection headlined by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. BALCÓN DE LA RIOJA To understand La Rioja better – and before you lose track after too many tastings – a sense of the infinite can be eyed from the Balcón de la Rioja, a lofty natural panorama plotted almost at the center of the region’s winemaking map. PARQUE NATURAL DE SIERRA CEBOLLERA Pick your time right to come to La Rioja during the September/October harvest and the beech and oak will have turned gold and the hiking trails will be as ripe to enjoy as the fruit. Hike a summit or two, then sprint back down for a celebratory bottle. MONASTERIES OF SAN MILLÁN DE LA COGOLLA Skip the overcrowded Camino de Santiago, but don’t forget that it weaves east to west through the region. The perfect place to dip a toe onto the trail is at these two Unesco-worthy temples on the pilgrim route east of Logroño. A heavenly sort of peace is guaranteed. LA BATALLA DEL VINO Like La Tomatina, the mass food brawl with tomatoes in Buñol near Valencia, this annual wine fight in Haro happens on Saint Peter’s Day (June 29). Grab a bucket – or better still, a water pistol – and prepare to get doused in liters of red wine. Don’t worry: there’s plenty of the stuff to go round.

Top, Monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla, and Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture 104

From top, a typical La Rioja landscape, La Batalla del Vino, and Parque Natural de Sierra Cebollera


Photography ©VOICES, Helen Cathcart, all other images the establishments


One of Montalcino’s most storied estates, Argiano is seeing a new renaissance with winemaker Bernardino Sani’s refined and classical approach.


s we release this fifth edition of VOICES, harvest season is upon us. Harvest is our “moment of truth,” when we measure how successfully the vine’s adapted to the year’s growing conditions. It seems fitting we also use this season to assess how we adapted to events over the past year, by evaluating our routines and conventions. What could we have done differently to determine a better outcome?

On its face, challenging convention is not always an easy or comfortable process. Yet the protagonists in this edition have acclimated themselves to doing so as a way of life. In the case of Telmo Rodríguez, “Rebel With A Cause,” we find how to make ourselves more comfortable with challenging convention by embracing the spirit of adventure. Meanwhile, Stephen Satterfield in “Origin Story” uses his unconventional perspective to stand out with original thinking. We too can learn to adapt our thinking. Being open-minded, curious, and willing to take risks can unlock our potential and result in greater success. Rethinking also breeds optimism. It’s shown throughout these pages that when we embrace the pace of change in the world around us, we are also instilling ourselves with a quiet confidence – knowing that we are resilient. I’m inspired by the innovators profiled in these pages. And I’m confident that our best days are ahead of us.

Joe C. Gallo, Founder, Maze Row

Editorial: Spinach Branding Leigh Banks: Content direction Adam Thomas: Creative direction Nargess Banks: Editorial direction Simon Ward: Art direction, design Rebecca Holden: Design Léa Teuscher: Copy editing Product photography: Rob Lawson Photography: Helen Cathcart Marketing: Maze Row Suzanne Denevan-Brown: Content strategy Emma Mrkonic: Content strategy 1-888-222-3380 Facebook Instagram @mazerowwines VOICES is published by Maze Row Wine Merchant, 3387 Dry Creek Rd. Healdsburg, CA 95448 ©2023 Maze Row Wine Merchant, USA, Healdsburg, CA. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. To subscribe visit

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